Category: Friends


IMG_4341 - Copy                                                     editor, agent, inspiration, muse, beloved friend, Brenda Bowen

Reading and writing provided me escape when I was young. Writing, even when I was a fledgling author, supplied me with an identity and a network of wonderful people from whom I could learn. It filled a deep hole in my soul and gave me a multitude of reasons to embrace each day, the good and the bad of it. So I suppose it could be said that no one single thing, but, instead, everything, my entire unique and particular life, has influenced my writing the most. Perhaps that’s a very broad answer but it’s an honest one and one I suspect holds true for most writers.

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There have been a couple of projects in which I’ve attempted to team up with other authors. Once, Ann M. Martin and I dipped our toes into a two-voice novel, but neither of us loved the direction the book was taking and so we agreed to jump ship together. Another time I was part of a group of authors attempting to create a single story. Though some of the book sparkled (I’m sorry to say not my part), the project failed to realize its full potential and was mercifully put out of its misery.

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My friends and family help me with every book project, from listening to me blather on about my subject as I go deeper and deeper into the research, to critically reading the manuscript, sometimes repeatedly, as I do revisions. In the case of THE MUSIC OF DOLPHINS, my parents and my aunt were particularly helpful in connecting me with the Florida Coast Guard, who agreed to take me up in a helicopter and fly me over the Florida straits. Unfortunately, because of weather conditions, we were unable to go through with our plans. The other connection my family made for me on that same research trip went a good deal more successfully. I visited a dolphin research center in the Tampa area and spent time with a remarkable male dolphin named Sunset Sam. What I learned from my time with this highly intelligent cetacean unquestionably informed my portrayal of Mila in the book.

DSC04454 (2)Feedback from my friend and colleague Eileen Christelow on a picture book manuscript (an early draft of COME ON, RAIN!) set me on the path to OUT OF THE DUST. As soon as I turned my attention to dust, agriculture, the country’s bread belt, and the impact of the Dirty Thirties on our country, I was hooked.

13092013LC 019I suppose that all depends on how you define “famous”. I do know people whose names are familiar to you and count them among my dearest friends.

Here is one small group of writers and artists with Vermont connections assembling for a summer meal.

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Thank you for asking! This year I have been writing a poem each day. The project, inspired by Julie Reimer, a dear librarian friend from Minnesota, has led me to some fascinating and surprising places in my work. So far, one book, a picture book with the working title of THUMB, has come out of this year-long project. We’re nearly at the end of our year now and I’m not certain whether I’ll continue into the coming year, though it has been such a revelation for me I suspect I might indeed continue. I also intend to look at the 365 poems I’ve produced and see whether I might like to publish the best of them. What do you think?

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Ideas come from so many places. Sometimes, when I’m reading the work of other writers, I feel a finger of inspiration tickle my brain. I’ve transformed magazine and newspaper articles into novels and picture books. Concerts, lectures, documentaries, television and radio interviews can also become story catalysts. Occasionally a fan letter will open up a possible avenue to a story, or an overheard conversation in the doctor’s office, or someone sitting across the aisle from me in the theater. I trawl my own life, both my childhood and my adult years, for story ideas, too. Not every experience leads directly to a book, but every experience holds that potential within it.

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I love to knit, hike, take photographs, read, watch movies, attend lectures and concerts,

I love listening to  National Public Radio. I love  cooking and eating good food.

I love spending time with friends and family. I love going on adventures. I love painting watercolors.

I love meeting new people and discussing the world both large and small.

And so much more, so, so much more.

DSC01611In fact I have never visited a Haitian orphanage. When I was in the process of creating Radley’s character I decided I wanted her out of the country when the U.S. began to unravel. Ever since I read a beautiful book by Frances Temple called TASTE OF SALT and the exquisite MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS by Tracy Kidder and the extraordinary work of Edwidge Danticat, I have been more than a little interested in Haiti. I decided to place my protagonist there at the beginning of SAFEKEEPING. By coincidence, a young Brattleboro woman, Mariam Diallo, was recognized in our local newspaper (the Brattleboro Reformer) for her volunteer work in Haiti. I contacted Mariam and she became an indispensable resource for creating Haiti with authenticity and power.

DSC02269Actually I walked through a rainy spring…and that’s important. While I was walking it was damp and chill and the black flies and no-see-ums were swarming so the experience of walking during the same season Radley made her walk was vital to understanding how it might feel. I’m a recreational walker. I love to walk. But walking alone, along a busy highway, in towns and in the long stretches between towns with only my own thoughts, discomforts, and paranoia to keep me company had a profound impact on the emotional line of the book. Two friends, librarian Sandy King, and fellow author Liza Ketchum, joined me for parts of the walk. Their presence altered my perception of “the walk” in such a way that I knew I had to take Celia, a character who, in early drafts, did not enter the narrative until Radley reached Canada, and move her in earlier, much earlier, than I originally intended.