I worked in marketing and editorial in kid’s publishing for many years before taking a big leap to the full-time life of an author. Since 2000, I have penned 120+ books–from picture books to young adult fiction and nonfiction and written freelance for American Girl magazine, Mattel, Scholastic, Columbia Tri-Star, Star Wars Kids magazine, and much more. I even worked on a digital education platform called MicroRangers for the Museum of Natural History. My journey as a writer has taken many twists and turns and reckless nosedives into unknown territory. I have the writer scars to prove it.
Along the way, however, my greatest creative experience happened: I had two sons and a daughter. I did not know it at the time, but this meant a new life as tutor, swim taxi, baseball scorekeeper, backup singer, and Cub Scout and Girl Scout leader. And sleep-deprivation beyond my wildest imagination.
Some other facts about me:
Arrival on Planet Earth: I was born centuries ago (okay, like half a century ago) in Massachusetts, nearly delivered in traffic on the way to the hospital. Born near Boston means I am a lifelong Red Sox fan. My great-grandfather was an electrician who helped install the lights in Fenway Park. Many pals are Yankees folks, however, which can be a problem during baseball season.
Siblings: I’m an only child. Sort of. My dad and stepmom adopted a beautiful baby boy when I was in college, so I do have a step-brother. His name is Andrew and he plays drums, teaches guitar, and has some fancy-pants job in Boston.
First childhood memory: Back in Massachusetts circa 1972: playing Matchbox cars in the windowsill, catching ladybugs in the kitchen, and singing Karen Carpenter tunes at the top of my lungs. I used to read the Wall Street Journal, I swear. Or my parents read it to me. Somehow it did not turn me into a globe-trekking investor. At all.
Grown-up dreams: I wanted to be a writer for Mad magazine or Saturday Night Live (this was back in the late 70s when the show first arrived). I made up my own magazine with jokes and skits and called it COOL. As if! (I guess looking back what I secretly wanted to be was Tina Fey, yup) As a runner-up ambition, I also considered a lifetime vocation to teach. This was probably because I was so enamored of Helen Keller’s life accomplishments. She and Annie Sullivan were amazing people. Well, most teachers I know are. Until they fail you.
Obscure injuries: Knock wood–I have never broken an arm or a tibia or anything like that. But I do have three cool scars over my right eye from where my face collided with a wall; where I tripped over a chair into a desk (second grade–and hey, I was pushed!); and where a miniature golf club made unfortunate contact with my glasses–and eyeball.
My start as a reader: my mom used to read to me. I still have the Winnie the Pooh book that we read together–and I read it to my kids. Heffalumps are my favorite. Side note: when each of my kids were wee babes, the get-to-sleep top hit in our house, sung by me, was “House at Pooh Corner.”
First book: Hello, Rock. It is a best-selling opus about a rock. Except for the opus part. I still have the orginal book saved in a Ziploc bag. It might explain my collection of heart rocks, gathered in forests and from beaches I’ve visited over the years.
My real start as a writer: When I was in second and third grade I wrote very first story called Harry & Me at recess. I have no idea who Harry was supposed to be (many characters we write are inspired by real peeps in our life, but Harry was a mish-mash of everyone I knew). I remember crouching on these old cement stairs to write on the yellow lined paper. My best writing is done while hiding in plain sight.
Most alarming fact about my childhood: I was really good in math. An old friend just reminded me of our days in math club. Math club?!! So, what happened to my grasp of complex numeric formulas? Those math days were numbered! Bwahaahaha! Actually though, all three of my kids are expert math students which is just plain weird.
Wannabe actress: I acted in whatever I could; whenever I could. When I was in high school, I won a Shakespeare recitation competition. A bunch of us competed NYC-wide; and the judging panel included legends Helen Hayes and Rosemary Harris! Can you say STAR STRUCK?! One of the biggest wows ever. I competed nationally in public speaking tournaments/ forensics competitions, too, performing in the category of Dramatic Interpretation. My piece was a section of the Marsha Norman play ‘Night Mother. It was intense, but alas, born a ham; always a ham. I loved it.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer/illustrator for real? Two words: Judy Blume. And seven more words confirmed it: Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret
Some favorite books as a kid: Blueberries for Sal; Little House books; Charlotte’s Web; T.H. White Once and Future King; and any biography in the library.
Biggest stumbling block for being a writer: I was a pretty good speller but kind-of, sorta, okay TERRIBLE at grammar, comprehension, etc. which was a problem when those testing years kicked in. Did extra-credit all through high school to make my writing better. Still working at it. Daily.
Strangest talent: uncanny ability to retain useless trivia. Still waiting for the call from the producers of Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune.
My genes: My mom is a talented artist. I’m trying to convince her to start painting again. Me? I doodl
e and I draw a mean stick figure.
College stuff: Graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University with a B.A. in English. I was the third class of women accepted at the school. It went co-ed in 1983. Most of my best college buds I met the very first week of college. We’re FFL: friends for life.
First job ever: Babysitting. Then assorted waitressing, coffee-making, switchboard-operating jobs.
First book ever: Scooby Doo’s Guide to Life
Favorite book(s) I’ve written: Whatever I am working on now.
Inspiration for my writing: eavesdropping on unsuspecting strangers; analyzing dreams; re-reading my old diaries; talking to my kids and their pals; reading anything from the newspaper to junk mail; and MY KIDS.
Best advice I ever got about writing: “Trust Laura and her perceptions of things.” My college adviser wrote that on a file card for me more than 25 years ago, I still have the coffee-stained and torn card framed on my desk.
Other random tidbit from my past: in high school I was featured in a Seventeen magazine spread. It was a makeover that I was photographed for throughout my senior year. Some fancy stylist chopped my locks and a photographer took pictures all over the city.
Not-so-great-habit: I get to bed too late. Although this comes in handy when I have a writing deadline.
Gets my writing motor humming: rainstorms; highly competitive games of Scrabble and Boggle; blue skies and long walks; cooking magazines; our bird feeders; classical music; and hot coffee from our local shop where I often go to write (and hide).
In my spare time: What spare time?! Just wrote the book/play for the spring production for the theater group where my kids perform–part country music, part Broadway, and packed with cheesy cowboy jokes.
Dreaming big: would like to be able to hike up a very big mountain and camp at the top; play the violin in an orchestra; write a movie; and train as a gourmet cook. But truth is, I had a dream that I could be a mom and a writer. And I’m doing just that. Blessings counted.