I was born in San Diego, California, in a year with a six in it. Also a two. You figure it out. When I was three weeks old, my family moved to a little town in Northern California. If you must move, it is ideal to do it when you are three weeks old. If you’re older, even just a little older, they’ll make you help, and you’ll miss your friends and get lost in your new house.
I have one sister, Sally. She’s two years older than I am and always did exciting things before I did.
My best friend lived next door to me in a big house. She had a pool, thirty-two plastic horses and one real horse, four older brothers and sisters, and a whole freezer full of popsicles. She could watch TV anytime she wanted. She kept her things in plastic pencil boxes. The only thing wrong with her life was that everyone called her Babe.
There was a ghost in my aunt’s house.
After I learned how to ride a bicycle, I went to the children’s library at least twice a week. The librarian was Mrs. Marian. I loved her.
I was terrible at spelling. Grownups were always talking about it, acting surprised that I was such a terrible speller. “She’s such a good reader! How can she not spell?” It was very embarrassing.
Girls couldn’t wear pants to school until I was in fourth grade. On the very first day that we were allowed, I wore a turquoise blue pantsuit. Jimmy Basore pushed me down on the playground, and I got a rip in the knee of my pants.
The best thing that happened to me in junior high school was this: the day before a week-long camping trip, I broke my toe and couldn’t go.
My French teacher must have weighed 350 pounds. He wore clogs, too.
Dear Mrs. Marian gave me a job at the library. I put the clear plastic jackets over the regular ones, and I re-shelved the books. I also read a lot.
What can I say about high school? All the regular things happened, and a few other things, too.
In college, I turned out to be a good student. I thought I was going to study English literature, but I didn’t, because the first English class I took scared me to death. I ended up studying medieval history. I liked to read about saints, especially the ones that stood on the tops of pillars for years and years.
After I graduated from UC Berkeley, I became an editor. I edited (not all at once) art criticism, textbooks for high-school students, a fiction and poetry magazine, short stories, and then, finally, books. After I had edited a couple hundred books, I decided that I could probably write one myself. So I went to writing school (that was a lot of fun) and I wrote a bunch of books for grown-ups. If you’re interested, and I don’t see why you should be, there’s a list of them here somewhere.
I also got married and had two daughters, Clio and Esme*. When Clio was little, she was the kind of person who wanted to hear the books she liked at least fourteen times in a row. Luckily, I am the kind of person who likes to read books fourteen times in a row. We spent a lot of time reading. While I was reading all those kids’ books (and again, a few years later when I was reading them to Esme), I paid a lot of attention to how they were made and what made some terrific and some crummy. I remembered the books I loved when I was young and I remembered how important they were to me. And I thought: I want to write children’s books.
*Esme made all the cute drawings on this page!