I fell in love with books at a very early age and I still like to skim them, read them, buy them, smell them, stack them, collect them, review them, display them and create them.
As a child, I was constantly doodling in the margins of my schoolwork. I loved doing book reports and special projects that gave me a chance to illustrate either the cover or some aspect of the narrative. And I’m convinced that helping my schoolteacher mom create back-to-school bulletin boards to decorate her classroom paved the way for my future career as a children’s book creator and editor. I call myself a children’s book creator because I write and design books for myself personally but I also like to brainstorm concepts for others to create books on which I work as an editor.
I was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia—the only girl in a family of three brothers. I played jacks on the front porch and daydreamed on my favorite limb of the front yard black cherry tree while my brothers played marbles and baseball in the back yard. From seventh grade through the end of high school my favorite subjects were science and math and I dreamed of being a research scientist, but I also loved playing the flute in the concert and marching bands.
About My Work:
After graduating from Oberlin College, I attended the Radcliffe publishing procedures program and got my first job as an art editor trainee at an educational publishing company in Boston. I worked on math, social studies, and some reading textbooks doing photo research, rights and permissions, and a tiny bit of layout and design. On the side, I continued to doodle, to write poems, and to design black-and-white images for poems and plays that my husband, Wade, had created. I started submitting my work to children’s magazines and eventually had pieces published in Ebony Jr! and Wee Wisdom magazines.
After receiving lots and lots of rejection letters from major publishing companies, in 1987 my husband and I self-published our first children’s book, an alphabet book featuring African American children as the main characters. Since that time I’ve written and published more than twenty-five children’s titles, and I’ve edited many more. I love collaborating with other writers, illustrators, photographers and graphic designers. I especially enjoy working on projects with my husband, daughter, and son, all of whom are involved in publishing and graphic design.
I love doing school visits and watching children’s faces light up when I read my books to them. Part of my classroom presentation is demonstrating the entire publishing process based on a one page sheet of paper from which the children can create their own mini-book. When they tell me, “This story is about a girl (or boy) just like me!” that makes me smile.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I love a cappella music and can sing soprano, alto, and tenor parts.
2. I probably would have gone to law school if I hadn’t discovered children’s books and publishing.
3. I bake a delicious sweet potato pie.