Storytelling and drawing were my earliest forms of writing. I drew everything and everywhere. Crayola Crayons, colored pencils, and paper were my tools of the trade. My neighbor had two pine trees and I would sit under those pines surrounded by the fragrance of gill-over-the-ground and draw and draw and draw. My mother knew where I was... it was either there or reading a book up in our big maple tree.
I loved stories. I acted out fairytales with my colored pencils. My parents read to me and my relatives had lots of books, which I borrowed often. My library card was my ticket to the universe.
My friends and I grew up with a downtown where we could walk to the movies, shop, and go to the library and buy lunch... all on our own as pre-teens. We played backyard baseball with imaginary players to hold the places for our limited team. We rode our bikes everywhere. Summers were heaven.
I lived in a two family house in a small New York State town north of NYC. My grandparents lived in the apartment upstairs. I was an only child until the age of five so as you can imagine, school and a baby brother came as a bit of a shock. Not to mention cousins! I adjusted by becoming their entertainment. I read to them, told stories, and drew pictures for them. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I always said, "Interior Decorator." It must have been the only art job I knew at that young age. I still like to rearrange furniture!
Every August my family stayed at a relative's cottage on a lake near the Catskill Mountains. We called it camp. I spent the day swimming, roaming the woods and lake roads with friends and buying ice cream at the country store. On rainy days or evenings I could be found eating a Twizzler while reading through stacks of library books on the lakefront porch.
I was an avid note-passer in school. The ability to make my friends laugh, cry, or even share my notes amongst themselves was a powerful discovery. If I added drawings, it was even more fun. I survived elementary school by using my imagination, drawing and reading.
In sixth grade, I discovered the fun of having a captive audience. When my reading of Edgar Alan Poe's The Tell Tale Heart met with applause, I was asked to read it in the other classrooms.
That same year I also had to make a poetry anthology, which I left until the last minute to complete. My parents bailed me out at the eleventh hour. My father visited neighbors to collect books of poems. I was excited to find so many poetry books in my neighborhood. Who knew? I read poetry all evening and decided which ones I would select for the anthology. My mother typed them. She was an amazing typist... very quick and very accurate. I was surprised at the speed in which she pulled each poem out of the typewriter and handed it to me, hot off the press, to illustrate. And I illustrated each poem with my trusted colored pencils. Then pure joy, I was required to write a poem! And to accomplish all of this, I had to stay up way past my school night bedtime. Now to have heard my parents tell the story you would think it was a dreadful evening, but I remember it as the time of my life. My own little publishing house and I got to draw the pictures and write a poem!
I wanted to play the piano from an early age. My parents squished my piano into an already crowded apartment and I happily walked to piano lessons each week.
I attended SUNY Oneonta and, although I would later continued down the path of educational learning including a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction, it was my liberal arts undergraduate years with classes in Literature and Field Biology that set my course for being a wanderer of mountains, lakes, and streams armed with a sketchpad and a good book. I studied painting and drawing at the Woodstock School of Art, The Art Students League, and life drawing with portrait painter, Cynthia Harris-Pagano.
Somehow, out of all of that I grew to be a teacher of elementary school students. I liked the idea of helping others find the joy I had discovered in elementary school through reading and writing and drawing. My teaching degree would also let me travel and teach wherever I wanted to live. It didn't quite work out that way (I didn't get to teach in every state).
I married my best friend from college. I balanced teaching jobs with creative work. I studied painting and drawing. I once wrote for Hallmark... all that note passing paid off. Another time I designed the logo for Hospice of Orange. We traveled. I especially liked traveling with my husband because he knows people all over the world. It was more like traveling to visit with friends rather than traveling as tourists looking in from the outside.
Maybe it's my New York roots, but I have always loved living where I can have both the solitude of mountains and lakes and the pulsing life of NYC in easy driving distance.
We raised two children. Having children changed my perspective on teaching, writing, and life itself. We read bedtime stories and spent time hiking and living by a lake in the summer. They are on their own now and I love hearing about their adventures. I deeply respect and admire their goals and dreams.
I always enjoyed the many teaching jobs I held... the last one being my most favorite when I taught first grade. With the backing of a fabulous school district, I was able to do everything I always dreamed of doing in a classroom. Music, art, storytellers, drama, reading, writing, mathematical thinking, science and history were all connected and valued. I had a piano, an easel for drawing, even bongo drums! I actually enjoyed writing lesson plans because I saw the year as a 180-day story unfolding each day in a meaningful way with picture books and songs woven into the lessons. Writing with children, teaching them how to tell their stories, and watching them discover the power of words was magical.
Being a life long learner is important to me. It is as if there is a steady beat that I need to follow and learning is where I grow in the rhythm and rhyme of life. I continued my piano study as an adult at Westminster Conservatory. My piano teacher, knowing my love of story, designed a recital evening where I told the story of each composer before the student performed the piece. It was my favorite recital!
When I left my last teaching job it was not without regret. I loved my job and the opportunity to build a strong literacy program. However, that steady beat within pulled me closer and closer to the truth of stories. I needed time to focus fully on the craft of writing. My desire to grow, learn, and create could no longer be contained within the schoolhouse walls.
I am drawn to the emotions or playful fun of stories for early childhood in picture book form and stories for late elementary days when a child discovers school survival skills and the new independence that often leads to trouble and mistakes at first. I love a good mystery and a surprising twist in a good tale. I am called to stories and I enjoy learning the writing craft. But writing is also hard work and some days, you just have to show up and get on with the process. It is an adventurous journey.
I am on that road now, following the steady beat and remaining true to the songs of my heart.