I was born in Savannah, Georgia, and grew up mostly in Charlotte, North Carolina. After college I moved to New York and became a children's book editor. I’ve always loved to read and as an editor, I’m surrounded by wonderful books all day so it’s hard not to be inspired.
When I was little, my favorite books were about the olden-days: Little House on the Prairie, Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy books, The Little Princess, and All-of-a-Kind Family. I used to check these books out over and over again from the library-I already had them memorized but I just liked knowing they were in the house. (I also liked to trace the illustrations!)
These books directly inspired my first attempts at storytelling. No matter how many times I checked them out of the library, I was never ready to leave the characters behind, and so I would spend hours making up stories in my head that continued their adventures--and sometimes I even let myself be a part of them! I also liked to dress up in “olden day” clothes and play Little House on the Prairie with my sister. Our costumes consisted of my mom’s long skirts and one of her aprons (preferably not the one that said “World’s greatest chef!”) and wearing our hair in braids.
When I grew up, I went to Smith College in Massachusetts. For me, one of the best things about college was that I suddenly learned that those books I loved as a kid were a window into a very real history, the history of women and girls. Believe it or not, I could actually take entire courses (and get credit for learning!) about olden-girls! Consequently, I took a lot of women’s history courses at Smith, all of which broadened my horizons enormously.
Because of my interest in women’s history, most of the stories I write are rooted in the past, but not always. My most recent picture book, Ballerina Bear is about a clumsy bear named Bernice who dreams of being a ballerina. Her ballet-classmates think she can’t do it, but despite all her tumbling and stumbling, Bernice really believes with all her heart that she can. As a fellow stumbler, I identify with Bernice a lot, and I’m really excited to see this book come out. Pam Paparone did a wonderful, fun job with the illustrations and Bernice’s personality really shines through.
I’m also just finishing up work on Milly and the Macy’s Parade, which is a picture book inspired by the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade that will be out this fall. I started writing and researching the story several years ago after reading in a blurb that said the parade was started in 1924 by immigrant employees who worked at Macy's and who were homesick for the outdoor festivals and other holiday traditions of their homeland. My grandmothers were both children in1924, and were also the daughters of immigrants so that snippet really struck a chord with me. I think everyone can relate to being homesick, and I love the idea that this wonderful American tradition had such a uniquely American melting-pot beginning. Milly is based on the true story of the parade’s history, with the addition of a fictional little girl named Milly, the daughter of one of Macy’s employees, who steers the plot.
A continuing project of mine is the First Grader from Mars series, illustrated by Mark Teague. These are early readers, and despite their science fiction title, are actually stories about feelings and anxiety. The characters just happen to live on Mars!
When I’m not writing, I enjoy hanging out in my Brooklyn neighborhood with my husband, visiting my family in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, reading, fantasizing about one day getting a dog, and just generally being silly.