I had a wonderful sixth grade teacher. His name was Mr. Albert. All the girls wanted to grow up and marry him, and all the boys wanted to be just like him. Every Friday, he made us write a short story. He had a stack of covers from New Yorker magazines — detailed and brightly colored, like cartoons. He'd pass them out and we'd have to write a short story to match the picture we got. I was the one in the class who never stopped.
I love to write. I love to make things up. I'm in a library or a bookstore most days of the week, because I love to be around other people's books, too. Reading and writing books takes up most of my life. Now I've added talking about books on school visits, which is all the fun and none of the work of writing.
The best part of school visits is meeting my readers, since my three children are grown now and I don't get to hang out with teenagers (although I still play the piano for the four choirs in our middle school). School visits are such a neat way to see America. When you're in Indiana one week, Oregon the next, and Louisiana after that, you go home astonished and honored to have met all those wonderful kids and their teachers.
“Where do you get your ideas?” Readers ask this question of every writer. I don't usually know. I just wake up with a mind full of ideas. But we all have great ideas; I could go to your school and brainstorm with your class, and we'd end up with a great plot, or ten of them. The hard part is turning the idea into a book.
Sometimes I do know where an idea comes from. When Louisa, my oldest child, became an ambulance volunteer at 16, I wanted to write a rescue book, and that idea became Flight #116 Is Down. I volunteered for several years in an inner city hospital, and from that experience came Emergency Room.
There's more teamwork in writing than you would think. I have a wonderful editor, and we talk and talk about the next book I'm going to write — or the book I've just finished writing that she thinks needs a little more work. It's sort of like having your own lifetime English teacher: No matter how well you write, she thinks you can do better and mails the story back to you to do again.
I was born in 1947 in Geneva, New York, and grew up in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. Except for a few years in North Carolina, I've always lived in Connecticut. I tried four colleges and faded fast at each. Every now and then I order myself to go back to school and get my degree, but nothing ever comes of it. I use my children, Louisa, Sayre (rhymes with fair), and Harold, in all my books. I just finished The Terrorist, based on the year Harold and Sayre convinced me to live in London, England.
I'm a happy person. I've been told this is shallow, and if I thought more deeply, I would know better; I would be miserable. But I think that most of us, even if our lives are full of misery, want to think on good things, and plan for good lives. So I write about good kids trying to do their best, even if the world around them has crumbled and doesn't offer good choices.