I grew up in rural Georgia raising tadpoles on the porch and yearning for a wider world. Teleportation and time travel remain appealing concepts, but it was the library and books that provided my tickets to wherever I wanted to be. I read A. A. Milne and Beatrix Potter and spent a lot of time dressing up my cats. Books let me live where magic was real, and I could have tea with a hedgehog in a bonnet, who would also iron my clothes.
Eventually I discovered that my backyard was overflowing with the real magic of nature. There’s a lot of wildlife in northern New Mexico where I live now, although I can’t seem to get the antelope to do my laundry. My cat and dog do seem to enjoy their little hats.
Growing up close enough to Atlanta to enjoy the symphony, theater, and museums may explain why I went to college in Boston and then lived in New York City. But I missed turnip greens, corn bread, and sweet tea, so I returned south. After a few years in Atlanta, my family moved to Ocean Springs, Mississippi. One of our favorite artists spent most of his life there. His name was Walter Anderson.
I’ve spent over thirty years studying this enigmatic, self-described “decorator” and watched fidgety children relax into the tale of a man who rode a bicycle instead of driving a car, and used a crayon as expertly as a paintbrush. He loved nature and art, and sought to bring them together into one thing. I wrote The Secret World of Walter Anderson to tell the world about perhaps “the most famous American artist you’ve never heard of.”
Our next move took us to Huntsville, Alabama, where I discovered that the first instance of an integrated public school in the state and a “reverse-integrated” private school occurred there during the same week —without violence. That was the seed for me to write Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama.
A future project may draw upon my experiences as a singing telegram messenger in New York. I wore a red jacket with epaulets and black tuxedo pants as I sang greetings to everyone from Andy Warhol to grandmothers in New Jersey. After college I was a singer in a rock ’n’ roll band in Boston. I wore all black and got pretty good on the tambourine.
Or maybe I’ll write about my appearances on television game shows, such as The $50,000 Pyramid with Dick Clark, which went to a tiebreaker but left me with a case of car wax when I didn’t own a car. I fared six figures better in the hot seat with Meredith Vieira on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
I’ve also taught children to knit on their fingers and worked in a wild animal park. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas for books. I thoroughly enjoy traveling and performing author visits to meet young readers, so maybe soon I’ll be telling a story to you.