I was born in New York City and lived there most of my life. I grew up in the Bronx and taught in the New York City public school for 22 years, until my retirement in 1995. Now I live in South Carolina with my husband and write full-time.
I write about what I know and what moves me deeply. My characters are greatly influenced by my childhood and my students. My love of books and writing came from my mother, who wanted to be a journalist. She grew up in a large family during the Depression, and though she was intelligent and literate, she couldn't finish high school because she had to work.
From my father, I learned how to tell stories. He entertained my brothers and me with stories about his boyhood in the West Indies and his experiences as a young man in the Harlem of the 1920s and “30s. He also helped me to see the beauty and poetry in the everyday scenes and “just plain folks” he captured in his photographs.
I have also been inspired by my students' creativity — the way they twist, bend, enliven, deconstruct, and sometimes even destroy language; their loves, hates, fears, feelings, and needs filter into my writing. I write for all children who need and can relate to things I write about — the importance of family, maintaining a sense of hope, and responsibility for oneself and other living things.
Those of us who write for young people have a special responsibility because the word is so strong. We must use our words to help our children acquire a richness of soul and spirit, so that perhaps one fine day we will learn to live with ourselves and one another in peace and harmony.