When I was a kid, I spent lots of time reading books, especially library books. At age 7, I won a reading contest sponsored by the Mid-Continent Public Library of Grandview, Missouri.
It's my absolutely favorite achievement.
Between third and fourth grade, I moved to Lenexa, Kansas. Through junior high, I worried too much about being at least a foot taller than everyone else, including the boys (they kept growing; I didn't), and about being one of four girls in advanced placement classes (I figured out later that being smart was a good thing).
Growing up, my favorite books included BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson, THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND by Elizabeth George Speare, and FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg. These all received The John Newbery Medal, awarded by the American Library Association.
I also loved TIGER EYES and ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S ME, MARGARET by Judy Blume. Like many women of my generation, I credit her with helping me survive the latter elementary grades and junior high.
As for my own story, I was lucky enough to be part of a close extended family, an only child with lots of first-to-third cousins, most of us in Missouri (my dad's home state) and Oklahoma (my mom's home state). And, come summertime, my mom wouldn't think twice about loading me and Grandma Melba into her Oldsmobile and taking off from Kansas, Okie-bound. (A few years later, I would return to Oklahoma to work in the public relations office of an oil company).
(I've had addresses in a number of states —first Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma and later in Illinois, Michigan, and Texas. So far, Michigan has been my only residence outside the Central Time Zone. I'm a fairly mid-to-southwestern kind of gal.)
Growing up, I had tea with Great-Grandma Bessie, fished with my Great-Grandpa Ernest, took long walks with my Grandma Melba, jostled with my cousin Stacy for rights to our Grandpa Clifford's chair, and lived with my Great Aunt Anne in Texas. They told me stories about themselves, their parents and grandparents, our extended family and friends.
In particular, I remember hearing stories about my Grandma Dorothy and her three sisters, about how my great-grandma had died young and so the girls had to all help raise one another.
And I always had a special fascination with stories about Grandpa Ray, who died the year I was born (maybe because it was the only way I could know him). I remember hearing again and again about how he was a man who cried at movies, how he was deeply committed to his career in the U.S. Air Force, and how as a boy he'd grown up with his brothers and sisters at Seneca Indian School, a U.S. federal-run Indian boarding school in Oklahoma.
None of my manuscripts are retellings of these people or their lives, but I'm honored if anyone can hear an echo of their voices in mine.
The article series "My Writing Life" continues with "Exploring" →