How did I start writing For children?

Ever hear the phrase, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade"?


I'm a big believer in that, because that's how I started writing.  In 2011, I was taking a self-defense class to keep myself safe (hah!) when I took a  backwards step and snapped my achilles tendon!  The surgery went fine, but while I was healing, I took another funny step (okay, I got spooked by a spider in my basement) and snapped that tendon again!  My surgeon told me that this time I was in for major surgery and a long spell of being in a cast and then on crutches.

 

I thought carefully about how I could take advantage of the forced 'downtime' I would have after surgery.  I've been a writer/editor for my job as scientific consultant for many years, but I'd never done much creative writing.  Still, there was this children's story I'd had in mind for quite a while . . .

 

Before my surgery, I did two things.  First, I joined a writer's group. We meet every two weeks to critique each other's writing and urge each other toward our writing goals (whatever they may be). Second, I went to the library and stocked up on the books and materials I would need to research the book I had in mind.  

 

The book I wrote is called Honey Ant Girl, and no, you can't actually buy it yet because, even though it's basically done, I'm still tweaking it. 

 

Meanwhile, one day my daughters and I were imagining what it would be like to be  able to talk to animals if you ate their food and . . . well . . . Kibble Talk was born! I had so much fun writing it, that I wrote Dog Goner.  Now I'm working on Book 3, and it's a LOT of fun too!

How it all began.  My girls and my cast in 2011.

Okay, but who are you really?

 

I'm a writer of fun books for children.  I'm also a mother, wife, artist, scientist, cook, animal lover and singer.  

 

I'm a mother to two wonderful girls, ages 13 and 8.  They listen to each of my chapters as I complete them and let me know if something doesn't work.  Their opinion means a lot to me.  

 

I'm the wife of a neuroscientist who studies how the brain controls the way our eyes move - like the way your eyes are moving right now as you read this sentence!  

 

I'm an artist/crafter sort of like Tawny's mom - my husband likes to say I have a different craft project for every day of the year!  I love how the internet makes it so easy to learn even difficult crafts, like jewelry making, at your own pace. 

 

When I'm not writing children's books, I write and edit scientific grants and manuscripts for scientists at several universities across the US.  I help them formulate their research questions more clearly, and then help them demonstrate why their research question is important and should be funded.  I learn about a lot of different medical topics this way - from dry eye to ear acupuncture to quitting smoking to diabetes to dementia . . . it keeps my brain busy.

 

I really love to cook, and that's good, because I'm about the only person who could cook for me!  For health reasons, I do not eat gluten (its a protein found mostly in wheat) or animal products (meat or dairy).  It's actually not hard to make amazing meals without these things, but most people aren't used to it.  I enjoy the challenge and the results!  

 

I've been an animal lover all my life.  When I was little, I talked to all our pets, and we had a LOT of them -- guinea pigs, mice, hamsters, fish, parrots, dogs, cats, hermit crabs, lizards and on and on.  I used to tell them all my deepest fears, and complain to them when I was angry about something.  I used to pretend that they understood, and wished they could talk back to me.  Isn't Tawny lucky?   Here's a picture of our cat Kiki when she was a kitten.  She really loves books, doesn't she?

 

I sing ALL THE TIME.  I sing in my house, I sing outside, I sing in my car.  I play a little guitar and a little piano - just enough so I can sing along.  I also sing in a choir at my church, and sometimes get to do a small solo.  Singing is relaxing and joyful.  

 

Well I guess that's who I am - now, who are you?  Let me know at Kibble Talk to Me!

 

Goofy from the start. Me at age 3?

Our cat Kiki (as a kitten).  She 

sure loves books!

Here's an interview I did recently for the book blog Nayu's Corner!

 

1) Readers got a hint of Gunner's problem in Kibble Talk, but it only really gets tackled in Dog Gone Dinky. Did you ever think about making Jenny the one who could Kibble talk instead of Tawny, and Gunner as the main dog instead of Dinky?

 

These are great questions! I will try to answer them in order. No book 3 spoilers though! A book centering on Jenny could be quite a whirlwind, but as a character she might be difficult for most kids to relate to. She’s the best friend we all wish we had (unless we are lucky enough to have one) who says and does all the things we are afraid to do – hard talking, ruthless, but loyal and true. No worries, though – readers will get plenty of Jenny in Book 3. She’s so much fun to write!

 

2) It must be said that in Dog Goner, Dinky has lots of things to say but neither Tawny nor Jenny want to hear it as they are too busy trying to sort Gunner out or deal with their own rather large problems. Where did you get the idea that Dinky would know the answer to the problem, but somehow it would never ever get talked about until the end? 

 

Dinky not only knows everything that every person or dog has ever known, he can also read minds! A character like that is hard to have around if you want to write anything longer than a one chapter book, because he will immediately know the solution to every problem. In every scene I write, I have to think carefully about whether or not Dinky will be present, and how his presence might force the plot forward.

 

3) I think in some ways Dog Goner is ever so slightly better than Kibble Talk because I already know most of the characters so have an investment in them. Add in the powerful topic of Tawny's parents wanting to adopt a child and what appears a simple tail (typo deliberate) of getting Gunner clean turns into an emotional rollercoaster looking at how adoption works. What made you want to include this crucial part of the story?

 

First off, thank you for liking my books! As to the adoption storyline, I have personal experience with this topic – write what you know, right? Second, Tawny needed an important problem – a dream to fulfill. The fact that the problem related to her whole family was a plus for me, because so often child characters are focused on an outside problem (solve the mystery of the stolen priceless whatsit, escape from whatever fantasy world they’ve fallen into, etc.), when in real life, kids problems are almost always family problems.

 

4) So, it has to be asked. Can you give us a hint of what might be in the forthcoming book 3? 

 

Book three will have all our favorite main characters, plus introduce two more – one of which is Tawny’s little brother. Other than that bit of a spoiler, just know that disasters will be narrowly averted and hilarity will ensue!

 

5) Where's your favourite place to write, and what do you like to eat/drink while writing?

 

My favorite place would be a beach in Mexico or Thailand or some such, but mostly I write in my cozy little home office where the snacks are close by and my cat interrupts me constantly. As to food and drink, I drink a lot of tea whether writing or not. My main snacks are nuts and berries (I’m gluten free and vegan), which I wash down with generous amounts of dark chocolate.