I grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. When I was little, I wanted to be an astronomer. (The bear in the photo is named Ursa Major, like the constellation.) Then I wanted to be a singer. Then I wanted to be a writer. Today my jobs are writing and singing. I guess two out of three's not bad!
(Okay, I also wanted to work in a piano factory and paste the labels on new pianos, but let's just ignore that one.)
My dad was a math professor, and my mom taught English. My sister got all the math brains, but some of my mom's word sense rubbed off on me, thank goodness.
After college, I moved to San Francisco and became a street musician. If you're looking for a great way to freak out your parents, tell them you're going to be a street musician when you grow up.
Then I worked in an office typing memos for accountants. When the accountants weren't looking, I wrote screenplays. I found that if I glowered at the computer screen and yelled, "Criminy!" once in a while, everyone thought I was typing a very demanding memo and left me alone.
I finally decided to write for kids. At first my stories were pretty awful, but I kept trying. They got better in time--but writing sure is a lot of work! Luckily, I have a bunch of great writing friends that help me. We read each other's manuscripts and make suggestions. And whenever I say I'm going to get a job pasting labels on pianos because writing is too hard, they talk me out of it.
I also started writing nonfiction. When a publisher asks me to write a nonfiction book, I usually don't know much about the topic. That means I have to learn fast. Now I know about lots of cool things, like smallpox and orangutans and Easter Island and whether or not it's okay to slurp your noodles in Japan (it is).
When I'm not writing, you might find me singing in a chamber choir, walking around in Golden Gate Park, or baking vegan cookies. Or possibly acting silly. (Who, me?)
Photos by John Vias