I was born in 1949 in Buffalo, New York, and lived there until I left for college in 1967. As a child, I was sick with recurrent tonsil infections that kept me in bed for days. I missed weeks of school every year. I even missed most of my own birthday parties! I would sit upstairs on the day of the party, listening to the high-pitched voices of clowns or puppeteers in our living room below, while a dozen children -- my friends -- laughed at their antics. My mother would stop by to remind me to take my medicine -- but the moment she left, I would open the window and throw another one of the impossible-to-swallow, huge square pills into the snowdrifts. (I always got better anyhow.)
It seemed to be winter all year in Buffalo. It snowed and blustered for at least 9 months. Unfortunately, it was even stormier inside. My parents created violent whirlwinds of their own, from which there was little safe retreat. From an early age, I disappeared into a world of my imagination. The living room shelves held books -- but nothing I could understand: plays by Shakespeare, the poems of Coleridge, the psychology of Sigmund Freud. I grew up reading them, anyhow, and while the meanings were largely beyond me, the language opened my heart and ears to the rhythms of poetry. When I wanted a story, I usually made up my own.
I discovered children’s books when I was ten years old, thanks to the arrival of my baby brother. When he was old enough for bedtime stories, I rode my bike to the nearest library and asked if they had any books for children. There was an entire section! At last, books I could understand! From then on, I made a trip to the library every week. The librarianʼs name was Miss Wanderer and the library was the Fairﬁeld branch. Since then, I have always thought of librarians as wanderers in fair ﬁelds, where books grow like flowers.
Around this time, someone gave me a copy of Little Women. It was the ﬁrst book I owned. I read it over and over and over. I discovered, in its pages, a family that loved each other with passionate devotion and infectious joy: the idealized March family. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be part of the March family. In my mind, I WAS part of the March family. I lived inside the covers of that book. My real world was far less real to me than the one I inhabited in my imagination for several hours every day. I probably read Little Women 200 times.
Naturally, I wanted to be the heroine, Jo. In the story, Jo grows up to be a teacher, mother, and writer. Itʼs no surprise that I grew up to become a teacher, mother, and writer. In some ways, I am still trying to be Jo March. All of which has taught me the importance of what a child reads, and its influence on her future life!
Thereʼs more to my story, of course. Most of it is happy and it seems to get better every year, shared with my husband, Rick, three grown children and two grandchildren. When I’m not writing, you may find me hiking, biking, or making a quilt. But Iʼm running out of space, so Iʼll have to leave the rest for another time. Before I go, however, I want to add a few thoughts for those who wish to be writers:
Your life, like mine, is a story in itself. A story that other people will ﬁnd far more interesting than you can imagine. And the big story of your life is ﬁlled with smaller -- and no less interesting -- episodes, characters, and ideas. All you have to do is to start writing down what you have seen and experienced. Soon your imagination will sneak in, unbidden; and before you know it, you may ﬁnd yourself racing to catch up with it. The fact is: you are already a writer. Pick up your pen.