“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes
I grew up between worlds. Each place contains a part of me and I am a blend of all of these places.
I was born in Kentucky and spent my most of my elementary school years there. While I didn’t write down many of my stories at this age, I was always verbalizing stories from the made up role-playing games in my backyard (always extending new storylines to Star Wars) to my imaginary friend named Wilma Spearmint, I was always talking in story language. I also remember open-ended afternoons exploring the creek in our backyard and dancing to the high school marching band as they practiced on the other side of the wooded area behind my house.
When I was nine, my family moved to ChiangMai, Thailand. I learned how to speak Thai, rode on tuk-tuks, and ate more than my fair share of Khao Soy, a curried noodle soup. It was here I first declared that I would become a writer. I developed my skills writing observations (aka spy notes a la Harriet the Spy) and rewriting the words to familiar songs. I read through the entire children’s section of the library at my school reading a book a night (we had to come in from playing at dark and there was no TV in English at the time). After reading through the children’s books, I started on Gone With the Wind and The Thorn Birds and any other book that was gigantic (these were pre-Harry Potter days).
There was no American system high school in ChiangMai when I lived there, so I went to boarding school in Penang, Malaysia. The idyllic setting on the beach is still one of my favorite places on the planet. I spent many evenings visiting the stalls (food vendors) scarfing down roti canai, Milo ice, and the occasional egg-topped burger from “The Hamburger Man.” In Penang, I also mastered my public bus riding skills which made me fearless when faced with public transportation of any kind. I also spent long hours writing for the school yearbook. In fact, I dodged some of the higher math and science classes in favor of journalism declaring that I was going to be a writer.
After spending my entire childhood in Asia, I have planted my roots in Virginia, near where my dad grew up. I fell in love with the mountains and the seasons. I studied psychology and education at Roanoke College. I began teaching elementary school, but my hunger for writing, especially children’s literature wouldn’t leave me alone. In 2001, I started the Master of Arts program in Children’s Literature at Hollins University. After getting my M.A. in children’s lit, I went on to get my M.F.A. in children’s lit. In Virginia, I decided once and for all that I AM a writer.