I started writing my first book, Hand Me Down Dreams, in 1973. That was so long ago, I used a typewriter!
Hand Me Down Dreams was published in 1981. Little did I know that 24 years later, my own daughter would be reading my book.
When Dreams was released, I was in graduate school, studying pet therapy with teenagers. My co-therapist and co-investigator was my dog, Toffy, a German-Shepard-Lab mix. Toffy helped me with my research at a boys' detention center. He also worked with me at my group home for adolescents.
Three years later, Toffy and I met Tom and Jonathan. Tom and I got married in 1989 and flew to China to adopt Elizabeth in 1993, Katherine in 1995. Meanwhile, I had started to write again. I published Mommy Far, Mommy Near: An Adoption Story in 2000. My whole family was very proud of "our" story! Elizabeth and Katherine often read the book together.
In fact, according to Elizabeth's 2000 reading log, I read Mommy Far to Elizabeth's first grade class, and she read it to the class herself, the next day!
Perhaps the most meaningful moment with Mommy Far came in July of 2004 when our family returned to China and visited the girls' orphanage. We were able to locate Li Guang Hui, the former director of our daughters' orphanage. I gave her and her interpreter copies of Mommy Far. "Director Li," as we call her, is in the middle of the picture. I showed Director Li the acknowledgements page, where I thank her, and the illustration that's based on her. It was a powerful moment I'll always remember.
At the orphanage, we did arts and crafts with the older kids who were getting too old to be adopted. I was especially moved by the friendships between the girls. Eight years later, inspired by those days with the older children, I published Red Thread Sisters.
Sometimes, with many obligations, I have trouble carving out time to write. In the winter, Pepper and I often take our own writing retreats. We stay in a pet-friendly motel right on the beach, outside of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Pepper gets so excited, he barks the minute we drive into the parking lot. I write and then Pepper and I take long walks by the ocean. Then I write some more. Here's my working space. You can see the beach out the window.
By nighttime, I've gotten a lot of writing done and we head to the beach to end the day we've shared. I've gotten a lot of writing done. And as for Pepper, well, he's been along with me for the journey and got a lot of beach walks in, too.