Frequently Asked Questions
Where and when were you born?
I was born in New York City on September 15, 1950.
Where did you go to school?
I went to St. Hugh's Elementary and Walt Whitman High School in Huntington, New York. I graduated from State University of New York at Albany.
Where do you live now?
I live in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, on a street I love as much as Mo loves Fox Street.
Do you have a family?
My husband Paul is a teacher. We have three beautiful, grown-up daughters: Zoe, Phoebe and Delia. Wait, who's nibbling my ankle? Oh, yes, can't leave out Habibi and Billy, our darling doofus cats.
Did you always want to be a writer?
The first thing I wanted to be was a dog. When I realized the odds of that, I switched to a cowgirl. Then an archeologist. I also wanted to be a mom. (Hooray! That came true.) I didn't decide to be a writer till I was grown-up.
Where do you get your ideas?
For me, stories always grow out of a real event or experience that sparks a memory or touches some strong emotion.
FOX STREET began with something that actually happened in a neighborhood not far from mine. Developers wanted to replace the little houses there with fancy condos and high end shops, but the home owners had other ideas. This made me think of the field behind the house where I grew up. I loved to play there--it was my bit of paradise--but one day bulldozers appeared, and soon my lovely, wild place was gone, replaced with new houses. As I wrote the book, I was also thinking of my own father. I loved him as much as Mo does Mr. Wren, but he sometimes let me down, and wasn't always the father I wanted. At certain points in life, we all have to let go of places or people. We find ways to both say goodbye and keep them in our hearts forever. I wanted to write about all that.
MO WREN got written because people kept asking me what happened after FOX STREET. I loved Mo and Dottie so much, I wanted to find out, too. Boy, was I surprised! (And yes, I do think about writing a third book someday, probably starring Dottie!)
PHOEBE AND DIGGER began back when my daughters, now grown, were little. (Yes, one is named Phoebe!) We spent a lot of time at our neighborhood park, where the sandbox was the scene of much drama. The story is about all kinds of love, including the love children can have for their toys, and how they can feel those toys love them back.
MOONPENNY ISLAND was inspired by Kelley’s Island, a small island in a great lake. Along with lots of other tourists, I love to visit there in the summer, and whenever I board the ferry to go back home, I get a pang. What would it be like to be a real islander, one of the sturdy few who live there year round, as the lake freezes over and the fierce winds blow? I’ll never know for real, but in my imagination, I became Flor, one of the only two eleven-year-olds on Moonpenny. One of this book’s themes is how we all, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant we are, have important role to play in the world.
CODY AND THE FOUNTAIN OF HAPPINESS and CODY AND THE MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE star Cody and her pals, who live in a neighborhood just like mine: diverse, lively, brimming with everyday adventures. Anyone who knows me and how I adore my plump, not-so-smart cat Habibi will be able to guess where the character MewMew comes from!
EVERY SINGLE SECOND began when a woman from our community, whose family we slightly know, became an object of on-line ridicule and scorn. The details aren’t important. What struck me and haunted me is how easily we can judge others, even when we know only the most superficial things about them. I wanted to write a book that showed how stories begin long before the first page, and go on long after the last one, and how we’re all connected, often in ways we can’t begin to guess. The book also borrows from recent events that prove, sadly, how divided we still are by things like class and race. Its ending, like the endings of all my stories, is full of hope.
How do you write?
On a computer, though my pocket's always got a pen and notebook in it. I like to work in the morning, then go for a walk or a swim to think over what I wrote and what comes next.
Do you have any hobbies?
I love to garden and to look at other people's gardens. I also like to ride my bike and swim (not at the same time).
What would you be if you couldn't be a writer?
I'd have that job where you drive around and deliver flowers to people.
How can I become a writer?
1) You're already doing the most important thing: you're a reader! Read read read read…sorry, getting carried away.
2) Of course, you also need to write. Write about things you love, things you need to figure out, things that get you excited or angry or rolling around on the floor laughing. Write write write…sorry.
3) I've never written anything that didn't need to be re-written. I love revising, because it always gets me closer to the true heart of my story.
4) Finally, share. Celebrate! The world has a brand new story--hooray!