I was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the oldest of three. There’s a lot of pressure, and responsibility that comes with
being the oldest. You’re the one who has to come up with all the cool games when everyone else is bored
senseless. I’d like to think my creative powers took shape during these formative, pre-Candy Crush years.
Then came middle grade, which was pretty rough on cameras. It’d be best for my ego not to show you,
but what’s “ego” but a Freudian construct? Right? Anyway, here: me in 7th grade. (view on your desktop)
My parents always said they knew exactly which kid was me—the one with the shortest hair. I preferred
the tomboy lifestyle and never left home without my soccer shoes, ball cap, and adidas shorts. Except for school picture days when I was forced.If you mistook me for a boy, my feelings won’t be hurt. I grew some thick skin after my husband mistook me for my brother in
photographs on more than one occasion.When I wasn’t beating the neighborhood boys in footraces or
soccer shoot-outs, I was reading in a tree. Laura Ingalls Wilder was and always will be my childhood
hero. And a really great party trick. I can spew LIW facts until everyone is inching towards the dip bowl.
Then came high school. My face hurt the cameras marginally less. I stopped challenging boys to races,
but mostly because I got really shy. Books were my refuge. And animals. I traded in my cleats for three
jobs. (Mostly so I could afford that awesome red car!) (view on your desktop)
I was a tech assistant at a vet where I got to do fun things like play with puppies and not so fun things like put IVs in cats’ tiny veins. On
weeknights, I went to a wildlife rescue where I let baby ducklings wade in plastic pools, and syringe-fed
opossums and squirrels. On weekends, I trained dogs at Purina Farms, ran digestive and palatability tests,
and made poop smoothies for analysis. Yummy. I guess I always thought I’d become a ground-breaking
scientist. Like a vet, or an astronaut or, I don’t know… other sciencey stuff. That dream died abruptly when
I went to college where I took a job on a dairy farm. Getting up at three a.m. to milk cows and scoop poop
for six straight hours with breaks of sticking my whole arm up cow butts all in the name of science might
have had something to do with it.
Dissecting was fun, A.I. wasn’t. So I handed in my sludge boots, flip-flopped my major and my minor (Animal Science to Art History), and never looked back. Instead of driving a manure-filled tractor all day, I was now deciphering Homeric Greek and labeling pottery shards in a musty museum basement. But at least I got to sleep in.
Within a week of graduation, I moved to Chicago, my favorite US city, where I grasped at any job that came my way. This brought me right back to animal care. I managed a small holistic pet boutique, which is pretty much the opposite of Purina and dairy farms. After a year of that, I quit in order to focus on writing. It sounds crazy, but luckily I had a supportive husband. And even better, it only took four months to sign with an agent, and a year more to sign a book deal. If you’ve got an amazing idea, don’t give up hope! Great ideas will always get noticed.
These days, I love to travel, even if it’s just to the Arabic neighborhood down the street to find great shawarma or across the globe to really immerse myself.
In more relevant news, I’ll be posting once a week on Wednesdays about middle grade books I adore, life under contract, the writing experience, and of course, history tidbits that don't make it into the books. Or
maybe whatever tickles my fancy that week. Once a month, I’ll have a Travel Tuesdays post with a
historical bent, because that’s the way I love to travel!
After getting my degree in Art History and Archaeology (with a side of Classics, and Animal Science, just for kicks), I decided digging in the dirt was not for me. I wanted to write about history for kids and re-live it every day! Now, I live to travel all over the world in search of great museums and historical sites to visit. When I'm at home in my adopted city (Chicago), I'm a full-time writer and quickly becoming best friends with my local librarians. History is most fun when it's getting made fun of, so my nonfiction series are all about laughing. What's history without a little perspective?