I was born in Philadelphia, on the 20th of June. Which was also the birthday of my grandmother, Flora, and her twin sister, Florence. You can imagine the family celebrations when I was little! I loved sharing my special day with Nana and Aunt Florence, but I also remember wishing my birthday was during the school year, so I could celebrate with my friends at Overlook Elementary School.
My father’s name was George and he was a banker, but also a great reader. Later in life, he took up oil painting—just for fun—and even exhibited under the name of “Poppa George.” My mother, Ethel, stayed home to take care of our family: me, my big brother, George, and my baby sister, Kathleen, whom we all called Kathy. All of us loved to read-and Mother loved to write. Once we adopted a stray dog and my brother and I couldn't agree on a name. So, Mother organized a writing contest, with my father as the judge. Whoever wrote the best poem about dogs could name our new pet. I wish I could say I won, but my brother George did and we named the dog Topper.
|Mr. Wilson and I, 45 years after Overlook days.|
When I was eleven, a bank in Dallas wanted my father to come to work there. It was hard to leave Philadelphia and head for Texas, far away from Nana and Aunt Florence and our glorious birthday celebrations. All my Philadelphia friends thought I was moving to a land of stagecoaches and cowboys, and so did I. I remember buying a cap pistol right before we left, and I had a cowboy hat left over from some Halloween costume. I was ready. When we arrived I was a bit disappointed to find out my father would drive his car to work, and the best chance I had of seeing a real cowboy would be at the Ft. Worth Fat Stock Show and Rodeo!
My family stayed in Dallas (with frequent visits to Philadelphia) and I finished high school and even went to college there at Southern Methodist University. While I was at SMU I met and married my husband, Parker. Eventually we had two daughters, Cindy and Susan. In 1971, our family moved to Houston, and when the girls were in elementary school, I began to think about writing again. At first, I wrote articles for adult magazines, but when I wrote my first children’s book, I stopped writing those articles. Writing for kids was much more fun. Our daughters are grown now and no longer live in Houston. Parker and I remained there —except when we moved to Lagos, Nigeria in West Africa when the girls were both in college. Over the years our family welcomed an assortment of pets: guinea pigs, gerbils, and white mice, along with a parade of dogs and cats.
Someone once asked me to name the five books that most influenced my life. That was a real challenge! My earliest memories are of sitting on my mother's lap and listening to her read aloud from Robert Louis Stevenson's Child's Garden of Verses. By the time I was four, I could read for myself. I read easy books at first, but soon loved Grimm's Fairy Tales and the Raggedy Ann Stories by Johnny Gruelle. I also loved biographies and mysteries like the Nancy Drew series. But perhaps my all-time favorites as a child (and even as an adult) were Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. My childhood copies of those books now sit on the mantel of the fireplace in my study. As a child, I also read Bible stories. As an adult I still read the Bible, because its stories still teach me most everything I need to know about living life with joy and satisfaction.
Parker and I loved to travel, visit our friends, read good books, eat any kind of seafood (preferably by the sea), attend our church, and be with our family. I am constantly grateful that there were people in my life who taught me the joy of reading, writing, studying, thinking, sharing, and celebrating the goodness of life. I am also grateful for all of you who read my books. A writer needs a reader, so I need you.