You know those kids who are always spinning yarns at slumber parties? You know the ones who are always thinking of adventures that they’re too scared to go on in real life? Yup, that was me.
I was born in Birmingham, Alabama on July 7, 1968. When I was still a baby, my parents and I moved to Marblehead, Massachusetts, a cold New England seaside town. Shortly after we moved, my brother and sister were born. (My mother didn’t know she was having twins until they came out!)
I went to the public schools and when I was in fourth grade, I had an amazing teacher who helped us all make books for our short stories and poetry. Right then and there, I caught the writing bug! I am proud to share one of my first poems:
Unfortunately, I can’t say I remained as cheery through middle school. No one told me I was supposed to look like everyone else—blonde hair, blue eyes, and a fairly flat chest. I just didn’t turn out that way.
High school was way better. I joined an organization called Children’s Express that trains young people to cover the news. (It’s now called Y-Press.) The stories I wrote were published in newspapers across the country. Working as a young writer was exhilarating, since I learned that I could contact anyone, no matter how important, and ask them questions about whatever I wanted to know. I also started to fill journal after journal with the stories in my head.
In college, I majored in English literature, but the most interesting class I took wasn’t English. It was painting. As I painted, I stared at a tree for three hours solid each and every week. I have to say, I thought I might finally make it into the Guinness Book of World Records—as the first person to literally die of boredom! But after a couple weeks, something strange happened: I started to see a thousand shades of green I’d never seen before. Without a doubt, learning to look so carefully at my surroundings greatly improved my writing.
Later, I went to graduate school at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. We had to spend a whole year studying a problem for a client. My client was Save the Children in Malawi, Africa. As part of the project, I went to Malawi for a month and visited lots of schools in rural areas.
I was supposed to see whether girls and boys had the same access to teachers, desks, books, and pencils—but to my great surprise, there were hardly any books or pencils to be found. Some students would get a notebook torn in half across the middle that was supposed to last for months. And as for the teachers, they were there, yes, but some of them had 200 students in a class! This eye-opening experience changed my life and inspired me to write Laugh with the Moon.
When I took a job teaching sixth grade, I was happy because my students made me laugh every day. Now I’m married and I have a seven-year old son who finally—to his great relief—has most of his big teeth. We live in Austin, Texas, where I’m fortunate to be part of a dynamic writing community.