Q: Where do you live?
A: I was born and raised in ChocolateTown, USA, also known as Hershey, Pennsylvania. Today, I live in the foothills of the largest national wildlife preserve in the country. The Adirondack Park, in upstate New York, is six million acres in size!
Q: How did you get started in writing for children?
A:I have homeschooled my daughter since 1993. We read many books, so every day is a day of market research for me. I approached the world of children's literature quite unconventionally. I introduced myself to editors at educational publishing houses via email, telling them a bit about my unique background (business writer and editor, homeschooling parent, college instructor, engineer by degree). I received an incredible response in return, including a contract for five books. The rest is history (and lots of luck and hard work)! I don't recommend that new writers do this, however! It was risky.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I am a water nut! I love to hike along streams and to lakes. My passion for capturing water and its emotions in photographs takes me to beautiful waterfalls, wetlands, and quiet places. I must have been a fish or dolphin in a previous life! I love to swim. As a child, I was a competitive swimmer. (Butterfly was my favorite stroke.) I'm itching to make some big splashes once more by returning to the pool as a master's level competitive swimmer. And I worship the sun! On glorious summer days, I'm by the water in my beach chair -- with book (or current writing project) in hand, of course!
Q: Where are your online courses offered?
A: Around the world! Working with growing students is one of my favorite activities. My two online courses are offered through over 2,400 colleges and universities across the globe. I have had students join me from the Ice Project in the Antarctic, from developing third-world countries, and from hospital/nursing home beds. For some students, it is their first online adventure. Others are pros! My youngest student was a pre-teen wishing to start a pet-related business. The oldest? A 90-year-old great-grandmother wanting to preserve her family stories. Click to learn more about Writing for Children and Creating a Successful Business Plan.
Q: Which book of yours is your favorite?
A: That's a tough one! With each book I pen, I grow as a writer. My favorite is the one that I am currently engrossed in. It's fun to watch my writing improve.
Q: How do you do everything you do every day?
A: A: I'm a busy person, and I'm able to accomplish much by managing my time well. It's easy to lose time each day on the Internet or visiting with friends. But a minute lost can never be found. That's not to say I don't require "down time." I do! And lots of it! One of my favorite places to re-energize is on a large rock at a reservoir near my home. I like to sit there and observe the world around me. I hear loons and coyotes. I watch beaver, river otters, and great blue herons. I set with the sun on the still water. Sometimes I play my Native American flute by the water's edge. And sometimes, I am answered by the animals preparing for nightfall. Then I hike back home, often with the neighborhood dog, Mr. Spike-a-Doodles. (He chases the bears away, but not when he thinks they would make good playmates! That's a story in the making and sharing.)
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: Many projects! (I like having multiple projects going at any given time.) I am currently lost in three science-fair type books. I am also writing curriculum for the Kennedy Center for the Arts. And, I spend many days in classrooms and libraries with my readers. I share project updates and travel in my blog.
Q: What would you like to do that you haven't done yet?
A: I would like to travel more. I am currently developing a set of enrichment programs for the cruise line industry. What would be better than being on the water, soaking up the sunshine, sharing my passions with others around me, writing from the heart, and seeing sites that I long to see? Destinations? Alaska, Panama Canal, Iceland, Hawaii, Caribbean. My bags are packed. Make my phone ring! And, I'd like to spend more time with my instruments. I have started and stopped piano lessons three times! As a child, I studied clarinet, and other woodwinds, for many years. I'd really like to learn to play the hammered dulcimer. Maybe when I retire?
Q: Do you have any pets?
A: I do! My two current writing assistants are Siamese kitters. My daughter named them for two of her favorite children's book characters: Junie B. and Amber Brown. Junie is a seal point. Ammy is a chocolate point. They are litter mates. I have had Siamese cats in my life since I was nine! I can't imagine my daily life without their purr-sonalities and antics. The cat in my photograph is Chardonnay. She was 21 when she died.
Q: Is it unusual for someone with an engineering degree to write children's books?
A: You might be surprised to learn the backgrounds of your favorite writers! Most of us did not set out to be writers, but our life paths took us here. My degree is in environmental engineering, and this love and respect for nature is finding itself in more of my creative work, from writing emergent readers about spotted owls and endangered plants to creating a math book for middle grade students that uses the amusement park (including water, flowers, and natural patterns) as the learning classroom. I hope to incorporate more of my original photography into my books too. Each of us has walked our own path. No one has had the same experiences in life. This is what gives us our voice. No one can take that away from us. I ask my students: What sings loudest in your heart today? Write about that. Only your heart can sing that song.