I grew up in Sioux City, Iowa, in the beautiful hills that border the Missouri River. When I was young, I read as much as possible—new books, old books I had already read a hundred times, stacks of books checked out from the public library, and stacks of books brought home by my mother, who was a school librarian. I took piano lessons and developed the useful ability to play music while reading a book. Besides reading and playing music, I loved to draw and thought I would be an illustrator when I grew up.
In college, I took courses in many different subjects, none of them related to writing. I liked astronomy, which made me think I might like to be a physicist. Eventually I figured out that wasn’t really what I wanted to do, so I focused instead on history of science. (I still enjoy reading about how scientists figure things out.) After college, I lived first in Minnesota and then in Massachusetts. I worked at different jobs—editing, typing, and even writing—though nothing remotely related to children’s books. In my twenties, I took classes in drawing, painting, printmaking, and film animation. I tried writing and illustrating a picture book, revising the manuscript many times until I got tired of the story. I started a novel, but couldn’t think what would happen after the beginning chapters. Though I had lots of time for writing, I didn’t seem to get much of it done. It wasn’t until I was older and more disciplined that I decided I’d better try harder. As it happened, I also had a full-time job, a husband, and two children, so I had a lot less time.
Before I wrote my first novel, I assumed I should have the plot mapped out in my head. I still wish I could write that way, because it would be a lot more efficient. The fact is that I just have to plunge in and start writing before I figure out the general shape of a story. I spend a lot of time pretending to be the main characters, trying to figure out what they would do in whatever situation I’ve got them into, and trying to understand how the story will affect them. I also spend a lot of time revising what I’ve already written. I try to write in the morning, often going to the library because it’s less distracting than being at home.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I want to like spiders, but can’t because I’m terrified of them. I don’t like slugs and I don’t want to like them. It’s easier to get away from a slug than a spider, so I did allow my children to have a pet slug for a while.
2. I love almost all kinds of music; I can play the piano pretty well, and the violin and Appalachian dulcimer not very well at all.
3. When I was young I liked to swim and would pretend that I was going to an underwater school for mermaids-in-training.