I’ve always loved animals, and even before I started teaching at nature centers, I raised guide-dog puppies. But since beginning my volunteer work at three nature centers and a state park, I’ve realized that people are eager to learn more about the natural world, and of course children always enjoy a picture book. That’s something else I’ve always loved—picture books! I have had a wonderful time writing them.
I have plenty of inspiration at home. My husband and I share our house with two dogs, two tortoises, two tarantulas (who come on class visits with me), an adorable little snake, and even a black widow (who I also take to schools for kids to see the only spider in California they ever need to worry about). I love to put a spotlight on animals important to our world who do not get much love or appreciation.
Reading! The most fun ever! I’ve always loved books, and in recent years they have been my gateway to really knowing and appreciating the natural world. You never get too old to enjoy reading, and to love learning new things!
My elementary school did not have its own library, but reading was very important all over my city, so every two weeks a big, yellow school bus would roll up and take us to one of our wonderful city libraries. Then when we got back, the teacher would let us spend half an hour reading our new books, settled down anywhere that she could see us (one side of the classroom was all windows, so we could even go sit under nearby trees). What a wonderful memory!
This is easy! Read, read, read, and keep it fun! Go to the library! Read not just at bedtime, but maybe at snack time or take-a-break time. Read outside. I was so happy one day to see a mother and daughter who had taken a short hike to a stream, and what were they reading as they sat by the water? My first book, “Vulture Verses: Love Poems for the Unloved”! Wow!
Before “Fur, Feather, Fin” came “Vulture Verses” (above), followed by “Daytime, Nighttime, All Through the Year.” Coming out in February 2019 (probably history by the time you read this) is “The Long and Short Tale of Colo and Ruff.” It’s about a bobcat cub and a cougar cub who set out to find a different tail for bobcat, who seems to think there is something wrong with his. Of course they learn a wonderful lesson about differences.
I am always inspired! Nature is all around me, and as soon as I see or learn something new, I am eager to write about it.
When I started teaching classes about animals and plants to children (and their teachers and parents), I learned how much misinformation was out there, and how many animals get such a bad rap. Without bats, we would have less grain. Turkey vultures are cleanup champs! Spiders keep us from being knee-deep in insects! That was one inspiration. Then “Fur, Feather, Fin” came about because I wanted to help students remember the differences between say, a reptile and an amphibian. I started by writing two lines, in rhyme, about various animal classes. Then I just had to add a couple cool facts. And then I realized that, with all our differences, all of us animals have essential things in common. I wanted to write a book that talked about how we all share this Earth together.
I would love to help people understand and appreciate all the other beings on this Earth. (I may write about animals, but ALL of us are important.)