I am a storycollector, and storyteller, and a writer who teaches writing.
Action-adventure stories were always some of my favorite reads.
“Pirate stories, hero tales, Robin Hood,
King Arthur, James Fennimore Cooper, and Edgar Rice Burroughs —these and many more were my favorites.”
I also have a background in folklore (having studied it at the associates and undergraduate level), and realized that many of the best adventures are on our own landscape!
The western frontier, the Mississippi, the Civil War, the Revolutionary War, New Orleans, Boston, Chicago, New York, the Midwest and the Southwest, the coming together of many cultures, many languages and many stories — why, we have the BEST stories in our own front yard!
It sounds so cliché, that everything can be an inspiration, but that is also part of the wonder of children’s books.
The key is to become engaged in the life and landscape surrounding you. Inspiration and motivation does not come out of the ether, and is not created in a vacuum.
When I’m not teaching, I spend my time exploring the American landscape and the grand voices that make up the American story.
The language that creates these stories is as big and grand as the landscape itself. It is this audacious, bodacious, just splendiferous landscape and language that inspire me to write.
I live in the woods, in a 1830s reproduction log cabin, a perfect place to explore larger than life characters!
This picture of my cabin is included on the flap for DAVY CROCKETT.
I write in two places: in my loft, which overlooks my gardens, and in my living room, which is a grand room with skylights and big windows. So, I am surrounded by landscape, literally.
Come visit my creative space in this interview with Jennifer Bertman!
True enough, just as nature rumbles just outside my doorstep, many of my stories include an intimate relationship and exploration with the natural landscape.”
I begin every project with research…
For DAVY CROCKETT, for example, I researched both the myth and the man. I researched the historical context, including gender roles, so I have a feel for Miss Sally Ann. I also read his books to get a sense of his language and personality. My tale is a combination of many tales, some of which he told, and some of which were told by others. I highlighted the recurring motifs, engaged in the language, and then created a story from that.
Always the adventure. As Mark Twain once said, “Explore!
Stories tend to be organic, and sometimes outlines, research, and all the ‘great plans of mice and men’ need to be tossed as characters take over. In which case, I tag along for the ride!
These FAQs are excerpted from an author interview conducted by Shari Lyle-Soffe, of Out of My Mind About Books for Children.
Here’s a handy form for sending email to me.