My first book (or at least the first one I remember) had puffy pages and could go in the bathtub with me. What, after all, could be more luxurious than a warm bath and a book? It also had a lovely illustration of a hippopotamus.
By the time I was two years old I may have already lost the ability to distinguish between books and what people sometimes refer to as "real life." On my first day of preschool I introduced myself as Frances and my baby sister as Gloria. (If you've never come upon the fabulous Frances books by Russell Hoban, do stop reading this biography and go get your hands on one now. If you live nearby, I can lend you mine.) Certainly my memories of reading and of the characters I've met there feel as real as any memories I have.
I am very lucky to have a mother who thoroughly understood and encouraged my love of literature. She helped me write and illustrate my very first picture books. She has the earliest efforts, but take a look at the pictures to see one I did when I was about seven. She also took me to the library all the time (and twice as often as that in the summer). I loved our local branch of the Brooklyn Public Library on Kings Highway, in the Brooklyn, NY neighborhood of Midwood, where I grew up. But a particular treat was a trip to the huge children's room at the Brooklyn Public Library's Main Branch at Grand Army Plaza.
I owe a lot, too, to my elementary school, where creativity was encouraged and we were given plenty of time to write in class. I moved from picture book writing to poetry, journaling, and churning out chapters of various never-finished novels based on the style of my idol Judy Blume, author of my favorites Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself. My friends and I even formed our own Writer's Club (modeled after one of our favorite series by Ann Martin, The Babysitter's Club), in which we shared our work, helped each other, and co-wrote stories.
I knew by third grade that I wanted to write children's books when I grew up. Actually I wanted to write them right then and was sometimes frustrated when they didn't turn out looking or sounding like "real" books. What I didn't know then that I know now, was that everything I was doing was making me a writer of "real" books. All of the work I did was invaluable experience, because the only way to learn how to write is by doing it. The world tends to tell you, though, that being a writer is not a very practical goal. And the fact that I had never met a published author made the possibility seem even more remote. So I thought for a while that I might become a marine biologist or a rabbi.
When I was in college, I finally got to meet real living working writers. I became an English and Creative Writing major at Brandeis University and I worked during summers and holidays at Eight Cousins Children's Bookstore on Cape Cod, where my parents lived. Still, I needed a job after graduation and took a long winding journey through my twenties: working in a children's room, getting a degree in Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School (which was VERY interesting), being a teacher and an administrator at a Jewish School, and working as a children's bookseller and event coordinator for the wonderful independent bookstore Wellesley Booksmith in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
All the time I was writing: poetry and then, once again, children's books. I got serious. I buckled down and revised and revised, joined a critique group and the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and revised some more, and at last I got the phone call from an editor saying that she wanted to buy my book. Then I didn't eat for three days because I was so excited. And then I got back to writing. And here I am now in my home office in my nineteenth century house in Holliston, Massachusetts. I hope you enjoy what I've put into the world, and I'm happy to answer your questions or talk to you about my books, or writing, or your favorite books. You can contact me at email@example.com or visit me on Facebook. Please forgive delays in responding, as life sometimes interferes with email.
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