My journey to become a children’s book author began behind the wheel of a 1979 Cadillac Coupe de Ville with a sagging ceiling liner and an enormous Band-aid glued over a dent on the rear driver’s side. That car was big, green, and ugly. My four-year-old son, Max, sat on his kiddie booster in the back seat; my two-year-old daughter, Alexis, rode beside me in the front. We drove that Caddie from Oklahoma to California and back again with no radio and no air conditioning. All we had were songs, stories, and one another. On that long, dusty trip I learned I could make up one whopper of a story. I also decided that I wanted to keep making up stories, and I wanted those stories to become books. Eventually I graduated from Vermont College’s MFA program in writing for children and young adults.
In the more than twenty years since that fateful car ride, my stories have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and more than twelve books for children—both nonfiction and fiction. My children, Max and Lexi, still enjoy hearing my stories.
I’m a list maker—always have been. As soon as I learned to write, I started making lists: birthday lists, Christmas lists, to-do lists, things to do on vacation, stuff to remember to tell my best friend, why I hate fill-in-the-blank, all the reasons I love fill-in-the-blank. Right now I have a list of titles called Books I’m Going to Write One Day. Many of my stories start as lists. Not Norman, A Goldfish Story began as a list of all the things a good pet should be. That turned into a list of reasons why a goldfish is a good pet. Dad and Pop, about a girl who has two fathers, is what many call a “list story.” “f I am writing a story and get stuck, or can’t figure out what happens next, I get busy making lists.
And so it seems fitting to end with a list. Here are 10 Truths and A Lie: Things You Don’t Know About Me:
1. My favorite snack is chocolate in one hand, potato chips in the other.
2. I grew up in California, near the beach.
3. I have visited all fifty of the United States, as well as fifteen countries and four continents—so far!
4. I wear a retainer to bed every night.
5. I have ridden elephants, camels, and a dolphin.
6. I have eaten ants, crickets, snakes, alligator, frogs, and sago palm larvae.
7. Norman the goldfish is named after my cat.
8. Kelly is not really my name.
9. I live part time in Texas and the rest of the time in Jakarta, Indonesia, with my husband, Curtis.
10. I once raced a SCCA Sports Renault.
11. I never travel anywhere without my pillow.
Can you guess which one is the lie?