The very first word I learned to read was A-L-L. It was particularly appropriate because from the joyful moment I got my first library card, my goal was to read every single book in the children’s section. Books were magical to me. I still feel that way.
When I was in college in a small New England town, a young woman came to speak as part of an alumni career day. She lived in the unknown, glamorous, and slightly intimidating New York City. She talked about her career as an editor at a publishing house where, she told us, she got to read books all day long.
It was one of those aha! moments. After graduation, I moved to New York City and began my publishing career. I spent many happy years as a children's book editor at various publishing houses. It took me a while to get used to reading on the job; at first, anytime someone walked by my desk, I’d guiltily try to hide my reading material. Then I’d remember that I was doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing! The more I read on the job, the more I realized I wanted to write my own books. After a few false starts, my first book, Frannie’s Fruits, was published in 1989.
Eventually, I discovered how to get to Sesame Street. I worked at Sesame Workshop for the next 24 years, first as Senior Editor of Sesame Street Magazine and then as an editor in the publishing department and a writer of special projects. I now write full-time. I live in a small town outside New York City, where my husband and I have brought up two children and two dogs. I still read everything I can get my hands on--and write stories and poems that, I hope, introduce children to the magic of books.
you probably didn't
know about me
I worked at Sesame Street for more than 24 years. My favorite Muppets are Bert--because I identify with his neurotic personality; Cookie Monster--because, well guess!; and Julia, because I am a proud parent--I helped bring her to life as part of Sesame Workshop's autism initiative.
If I weren’t an author, I’d want to be a wildlife photographer. Although I have to admit I might not be brave enough. This is the closest I've come to being a wildlife photographer. My dog, Jodie, was very cooperative.
I was impeached in third grade. I was a class officer and had to go on trial with another class officer for cutting in line (my memory tells me my fellow officer wanted to get to the lunch room extra quickly because she had a flute lesson afterward). We were NOT removed from office, but I was so traumatized that I never again ran for office of any kind.
The Missing Book
In 7th grade, because my friends and I didn’t like our teacher at all, we used to make up books for our oral book reports. My favorite was The by Zachary Westerly. The teacher never caught on (there was no Internet then). I don’t advise doing this!
That Big Violin Thing
When I was in fourth grade, I really wanted to take trumpet lessons. My orthodontist said no to all woodwind and brass instruments, though. I ended up with the cello, and eventually gave it up because I hated lugging around something so big.
Where do you get your ideas?Ideas can come from anywhere, from something I read, to a conversation I overhear, to a dream, to a trip I’ve taken, even funny-sounding names. Most of the ideas don’t pan out in the end, but a few eventually become books. I keep a little notebook where I jot down things I may someday want to use. I wrote Everybody Bonjours!, after a recent trip to Paris, but actually the seed was planted almost twenty years ago when my dad wrote my then-four year old a postcard from France which read in part: “Everybody bonjours around here. The men bonjour, the women bonjour, even the cows bonjour!”
How long does it take to write a story?It can take a few hours, or it can take years! Usually I think about it (in the shower or just before going to sleep are my favorite times) for quite a while before writing anything down. And frequently I’m working on a number of things at the same time, so that when I go to the computer, I may say—I’m in a kind of summery mood today; I think I’ll work on that beach story. There are some manuscripts that I’ve done four or five versions of over the years and am still not satisfied with the results.
Do you ever illustrate your own books?I wish I could. I love art and hope that in my next life, I’ll come back with some ability to draw and paint. In this life, I can only admire those who have that talent.
Do your books ever get rejected?They’re rejected more often than they’re accepted! If you write, you have to develop a thick skin. But I take to heart stories about famous authors whose most famous books were rejected initially. Even J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected at first.
What are your favorite books?Really, there are too many to name. I still think Charlotte's Web by E.B. White is the most perfect children's book ever written. In adult books, I tend more to nonfiction. Recently, I've enjoyed The Splendid and the Vile; Washington Black; Anxious People, and the new Eleanor Roosevelt biography by David Michaelis.
How else do you like to spend your time?I like to swim, ski, and walk. You can frequently find me cooking up something up in the kitchen. I like going to see concerts, plays, and ballet. But what I still enjoy most is curling up in a favorite spot with a good book.