I discovered the magic of libraries before I could read, when my grandmother (I called her Mima) took me to the 23rd Street branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. We climbed up the many, many steps to the children's room where I had the delicious experience of picking out books to take home. One of my favorites was an East European folk tale called 'The Turnip.' Many years later, the memory of this book inspired me to write Big Pumpkin.
It was Mima who started teaching me to read, before I started school. Sometimes she told me about her life in the "old country" where she grew up speaking two languages - Yiddish and Polish. These stories fed my imagination and I drew on these memories when I wrote Gittel's Hands, Raisel's Riddle, When the Chickens Went on Strike and Sholom's Treasure.
I loved reading aloud and reciting poems.
It all started with Mother Goose rhymes. My father had a big reel-to-reel tape recorder. Together we recited Mother Goose rhymes onto tape.
As I grew older, our material grew to include all kinds of poems and stories. Those hours of reciting onto tape nurtured in me a love for the sounds and rhythms of language. When working on a picture book, I often read it aloud into a tape recorder and then listen for the places where it doesn't sound quite right.
Nursery rhymes continue to inspire my work. In Don't Fidget a Feather, I gave Gander his name when I remembered the old nursery rhyme Goosey-Goosey Gander. Halloween House was inspired by Over in The Meadow. I wrote There Was A Wee Woman because I felt so bad for the old woman who had to live in a shoe. Nursery Rhymes and Folk Tales are a wellspring of inspiration!
My love of reading led me to writing.
Books have the power to fill our lives with moments of great pleasure and deep meaning. They connect us to ourselves and to the world outside ourselves.
In my own work, I try to put feelings into words with honesty. Writing can help me know myself better while allowing me to escape from the limits of my own daily life.
With research and imagination, I can give my characters experiences I never had. I grew up in a big city, and yet I can imagine what it's like to be a working cowgirl with her own horse. If I do my job well, I can make that world real to my readers.
What else can I tell you about myself?
I taught English as a Second Language to adult immigrants for many years. The acquisition of language is empowering, and I enjoyed watching my students grow as they mastered our difficult English tongue.
My love of books and libraries led me to yet another career as a librarian. I love being able to help library patrons find what they need, whether it's a book, a movie, an image, or some very specific and obscure bit of information.
I enjoy speaking at schools, libraries and conferences about the joys and challenges of the writing process.
Oh, and I have one dog and two cats.
In my imagination, I also have horses and cows, rabbits, goats and parrots. In my imagination, I swim with sea turtles and fly with ravens. In my imagination, I'm a foot taller and play a mean game of basketball. And with my imagination, I can make up new stories, write new books. Isn't imagination wonderful?