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Where I've Been and

Where I'm Going

About me

 

I'm a Midwesterner at heart and a Pacific Northwestern islander by choice. I'm the author of children's books for the school market, as well as poems and short stories. My favorite genre is middle-grade fiction. I teach writing workshops for kids on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where I aim to create a safe, inclusive space for all to explore their writing craft. Everyone is welcome!

 

When I'm not writing or teaching, I'm probably walking, reading, haunting libraries and bookstores, or searching for the perfect cup of coffee. 

 

 

On writing

My first published writing was a humor piece about riding the 21A bus route in Minneapolis. When it appeared in The Minneapolis Star and Tribune, I stared at my name in print. My writing was in the newspaper! 


When I was fourteen, I became an aunt. As my nieces and nephews grew up, they showed me that the world is a constant state of discovery. Everything is new. Everything has potential. What could be better than writing for that audience, discovering right along with them?

I began writing middle-grade stories and novels that taught me craft. I sent out my work and got rejections. And rejections and rejections. A lot of rejections! When I received notes from editors saying, "Try us again," they spurred me on. I wrote several books--fiction and nonfiction--for the school market, and liked knowing that kids across the country were reading my words. 

Middle-grade is my favorite age. It's the turning point between being a child and becoming a teen. When I was accepted into the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, I was surrounded by smart people who wrote, discussed, lived, and breathed middle-grade and YA writing. Heaven!

 

My advisors helped me reach a new level in my craft. Sharon Darrow led me through emotion boot camp. Marion Dane Bauer got me to dig deeper. David Gifaldi taught me about the "wobbly" process of writing a novel. Sarah Ellis imparted humor. These talented authors, along with my classmates and my current critique group, give me the support I need on my writing journey--a journey I take with the characters in my imagination. 

Colum McCann wrote, "I believe in the democracy of storytelling. I love the fact that our stories can cross all sorts of borders and boundaries." I believe in crossing boundaries, and in the power of stories to change the world. 

 

 

On reading

Like many writers, I came to writing through reading. Richard Peck said, "We write by the light of every book we ever read." In that case, I have many lights around me. Unlike some writers, however, I wasn't one of those kids who knew she wanted to write by age five.

I grew up in a working class suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My dad was a truck driver. My mom took care of the house and my sisters, brother, and me. Both my parents finished their schooling after eighth grade. We didn't have many books in the house, but I was lucky to grow up in a large extended family that told stories.

 

My sisters took me to the public library. My brother and I read comics on our scratchy couch in the breezeway. I didn't dream about being a writer. I had never met a writer, or anyone who knew a writer. Writing would come later. But in high school and college, I became a voracious reader, and still am. Is there anything better than opening a new book, anticipating a new story? 

 

 

On teaching

 

In college I majored in linguistics, so it was a surprise when I came to teaching through the back door and discovered that I loved it.

Teaching creative writing to young, budding authors inspires me. I learn from my students. I hear something that makes me look at the world differently. It may be a word, a sentence, a phrase, a comment, a drawing, or an entire story. Something in my thinking shifts, and I want to run home and write.

 

My coworker Shannon beautifully expressed how I feel about working with young writers: "One small voice at a time, we create space to be heard." 

 

 

Art by Alyssa L., age 11