Most of my early memories are about books. As a preschooler I begged my mom to read The Little Red Hen so many times that I memorized the words. As soon as I learned to read my dad drove me to the local branch of the Providence, RI, Public Library. The nice librarian lady gave me my first library card. I borrowed my first library book. And somewhere on the ride home I became a lifelong reader.
My favorite stories were historical fiction. I loved Caddie Woodlawn. I read Little Women over and over and cried each time I came to the part where Beth died.
Then I discovered the long, low shelves of biographies. Here were the same exciting stories of people who’d lived long ago, but they were true! When I was ten or eleven, I spent a whole year reading nothing but biographies.
You’d think that a reader of books would want to grow up to be a writer of books. But I never thought of it. The reason was simple: I didn’t know any real writers. Saying I wanted to be a writer was like saying I wanted to be a pirate or a princess—exciting, but not going to happen. So I went to college and did other things. But I never stopped reading. And I never stopped going to the library.
When my two sons were little, I took them to the library, too. I read to them all the time and got to share my love of books with them. Suddenly my new favorite books were children’s books. I was absolutely hooked. When I knew I wanted to try writing my own stories, I remembered all those biographies I’d loved. My first biography, Babe Didrikson Zaharias: All-Around Athlete, was published in 2000. I dedicated it to my sons.
Now I know lots of writers. I go to schools so that students can meet a real writer and see that they can be real writers, too. And I tell them that being a children’s writer is even better than being a pirate or a princess!