What can I say? I was born in Boston, MA, into a family of book lovers: so lucky. When I was five, we moved to central Connecticut where we lived on the side of what seemed a small mountain to me. My dog and I were explorers; we discovered an old quarry and woods filled with mica-covered boulders to climb. And I was a Girl Scout. We camped in backyards, fields, and made pancakes in the rain. Hillsides were dotted with cows, sheep, goats, horses, and there was a big working barn where my friends and I liked to play. My favorite books were about animals (Misty of Chincoteague; Born Free; Socks by Beverly Cleary and illustrated by my aunt, Bette Darwin), historical fiction (Island of the Blue Dolphins; Witch of Blackbird Pond) and biographies. My mother was our school librarian, and in fourth grade I started at one end of the biography shelf (Jane Addams) and read straight through to the end. People’s personal stories have always fascinated me.
At Syracuse University, I studied magazine journalism and English literature. I reveled in the romantic poets, Shakespeare, and Chaucer read aloud in Middle English by the professor. I loved my writing classes and even sold a short article to Popular Science magazine about a new chemical developed to stabilize wood products. But in looking back now, I realize that I was greatly influenced by a science professor, an expert on inland aquatic ecosystems. On field trips, we sampled water quality in nearby Onondaga Lake which was ringed by industrial plants. So, what happened on my first professional job will come as no surprise. Months into my work as a news reporter in Chicago, I phoned my editor to report that the Chicago River had turned GREEN! Inside scoop: I didn’t know that dyeing the river green is a Chicago St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Drop the story, he said, there’s a fire to cover. To this day, I remain suspicious about the green dye.
Next, I spent several years as a writer and editor at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Basically, I “translated” the fascinating but technical work of scientists and engineers into understandable English.
Later, reading with my own young children reminded me of my love of children’s books—and I began to write articles for children’s magazines including Ranger Rick and National Geographic World. I have written several picture books as well as a mid-grade nonfiction about wildfire. My latest project, a biography of a quirky 18th century scientist, will be published in October 2019 by Norton Young Readers.
These days I split my time between Albany, New York and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with my husband Jim, a forester.