I learned to read slowly, sitting on top of a portable dishwasher, sounding out letters, then words, then finally books, BOOKS!, while my mom washed the dishes.
Learning to read changed my world. Sam, Bangs & Moonshine and Gooseberry Lane fired my imagination. King of the Wind and The Cat Who Went to Heaven told me life was big and complicated and full of things I didn't understand. How to Eat Fried Worms, The Light in the Forest, and Sounder made me mad, made me cry and made me think.
I understood that books mattered. I wanted to write them. But I didn't know how. And that scared me.
For a long time, I was too scared to try. Even when I had a chance to learn, I studied other things instead. Writers became writers all kinds of different ways. Some studied. Some worked on assembly lines. Some taught in universities. Some called themselves writers and left it at that. It didn't make sense. And I didn't understand.
For me, being a lawyer made sense, and I did that. Being a mom made sense, and I did that. Being a teacher made sense and I did that, in a high school and in a prison.
And still, writing seemed too confusing, too unclear, too scary.
Time passed. I got brave slowly. I started writing stories. I found friends who were also writing. We helped each other. I got better. I found organizations that helped writers learn. I studied. I read. I wrote. I learned to do my writing work, day in and day out. I got better. I found the right teacher. I got better. And I got braver.
And now I write books for kids. It’s as good as I could ever have imagined.