I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and am the oldest of three children. When I was very young, my parents and I moved to Seattle. I had two great loves. The first was books. (Even if I was reading them upside-down!)
My second great love was pets. (Today, I still treasure books and have a family that includes one dog, four cats and two turtles.)
The fall I turned two, my brother, Richard, was born. Now I had someone to share books with!
When I was five, my father got a new job as a biochemist at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. I grew up in Rockville, a suburb outside Washington, D.C. There, my little sister, Nancy, was born. My sister and I have always been very close. I think our relationship has been part of why I often write about friendships between girls, close as sisters.
My parents both loved books too and they read to us a lot. Some of my favorite books when I was young were Make Way for the Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McClosky, The little Engine that Could, by Watty Piper, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton, Curious George, by H.A. Rey and all the Dr. Seuss books.
Here I am in first grade, having a bad hair day.
As I grew, I liked all the series. I liked the Clara Barton, Girl Nurse type series, the Nancy Drew series, and the Bobbsey Twins. I also liked The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Later I read Little Women and all the Louise May Alcott books, as well as The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
When I was eleven, I went away to Girl Scout camp. I'm the one with the orange bag.
While I was there, I wrote my first published work! My poem, "Camp," was printed in Camp May Flather's mimeographed handout, "The Laurel Leaf," August 17, 1959, Vol. 29, No. 4. This is how my poem went:
Notice the rhyme and the snappy indentations! I experienced the joy of seeing my words in print for the first time. I wrote lots of poems at camp and that summer, when I was eleven, I decided I wanted to be a writer.
In 1962, the spring I was thirteen, I published my first short story, "Escape to Freedom," in our junior high literary magazine. This was a rather patriotic piece about an oppressed Soviet Union boy who flees to America. The next year, I wrote a story for the same school magazine about how our dog Susie won third place in "Best Cared For Dog Owned By Girl." (Note that pet theme again.)
Those years some of my favorite books those days were The Diary of Anne Frank, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith and The Yearling by Marjorie Rawlings.
In high school, I wasn't writing stories as much, because it was the 60's and I was writing editorials championing the civil rights movement for our school newspaper. I continued to read, though. I discovered Willa Cather and also read most of Charles Dickens.
In college I majored in American Government but took a lot of literature classes.
After college, I went to social work school in New York City. When I graduated in 1972, I moved to Cambridge Massachusetts and got a job as an outreach counselor for teenage girls. As I got to know the girls and their mothers, I began taking notes for the book that took nine years to publish. At last, after I filled a whole file cabinet with rejection slips, Hand Me Down Dreams was accepted for publication and I signed a contract!
Hand Me Down Dreams came out in the spring 1981. I will never forget the day I was roaming through a bookstore and, to my surprise, saw my own book, displayed on a pile of other new books. "That's mine!" I screamed to the cashier. "I WROTE this!"
Years passed, with a good deal of life happening. I went back to graduate school and then got married. My husband and I adopted two Chinese daughters, both infants. Then, one day, I began to write again. Sugar Was My Best Food: Diabetes and Me was released in 1998. In 2000, I wrote Mommy Far, Mommy Near, about my own daughters' struggles to understand their own adoption.
That summer, my family and I returned to China and visited our daughters' old orphanage. This trip inspired my new book, Red Thread Sisters (Viking/Penguin, 2012).
So it turns out that a little girl who read books upside down grew up to write stories herself. Of course writing is a journey, with many twists and stops along the way. Fortunately, I have many good author friends who walk the same path. Writing for children gives me great satisfaction, particularly when I hear of a child has read and enjoyed one of my books. Writing has become part of my life, a part of who I am.
When I am not writing, I am seeing people in my psychotherapy practice, snapping numerous photos of my family and pets, reading, swimming, caring for the turtles, and tending to my coneflowers.