"Did you always want to be a writer?" When kids ask me this, I have to admit to them: No, I was a carefree kid. I just hung out and didn't think much about the future.
I did, however, write. I sent a long story about fairies to my grandmother. On lazy summer days, I used to sit on the banks of the St. Croix River in Wisconsin, hide in the trees, and write poetry.
Then when I was a teenager I edited one newsletter after another.
As a student at the University of Minnesota, I didn't know what to major in. An aunt asked me if I had ever considered journalism as a profession, and the writing lights went on.
My journalism training led to a newspaper reporting job, a free-lancing career and finally children's books.
My science streak
I also have a strong interest in science, especially earth science.
I often collect sand and rocks wherever I go—from the Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, to the white sand beaches of Florida.
I have photographed the cobblestone streets in Turkey, toured limestone caves in Europe to see the prehistoric art on their walls, and walked on volcanoes in Hawaii and Chile. My travels feed me as a writer.
My writing influences
When I was growing up, I borrowed books all the time from the Arlington Hills Public Library on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. I enjoyed reading many classics.
My favorite book was "King of the Wind" by Marguerite Henry. I loved not only the story and the language, but also the beautiful illustrations by Wesley Dennis.
When I became a new mother, one of the first books I bought was Margaret Wise Brown's "The Sailor Dog." As I read it to my daughter, I realized that I already knew and loved this book, that my parents must have read it to me when I was a small child.
I am convinced that rediscovering The Sailor Dog played a major role in my becoming a children's writer.
I recently moved from St. Paul to a new home just a few blocks from the Mississippi River in Minneapolis. It's great to be near a river again, especially a river with so much history.
And it's a great place to write.
My husband, Dave, is usually the last person to read a manuscript before I send it to an editor.
My daughters, Emily and Anna, live nearby. I don't read to them anymore, but we trade good books back and forth. That's a habit I hope will continue for a long time.