Ever since I was in second grade, it was my dream to be a writer. I liked writing poetry and stories as I grew up. I read an armload of books every week, sometimes sitting in a tree. Many years later, I couldn't believe my dream came true. In 1988, Underwear, my first book, was published.
After that, I published seven more books, visited schools all over the country, and staged mysteries with my penguin puppet Mr. Pin. I've always liked mysteries, so it makes sense that four of my books are mysteries. I'd like to write more. And I still write poetry.
I am so lucky that I've been able to have another job as a teacher. Every day, it seems, my students teach me something new as I teach them about books, writing, and mathematics.
Besides writing and teaching, I like to sing and paint. I read as many books as I have time. When I wrote Mr. Pin, I would read Rex Stout books and watch Humphrey Bogart movies to get into the mystery mood. When I'm researching characters, I look for real emotion and details. I “shop” for an animal character in the nonfiction section of the library. And I look for a specific animal, not just a lizard, but a fence lizard as in Toohy and Wood.
Chicago provided many settings for my Mr. Pin books, such as Wrigley Field, The Art Institute, and the Field Museum. I would often visit these places to get accurate details.
My best advice to young writers is to read as much as you can and keep a journal. Read what you write out loud to see if it “sounds” right. It will also help you find the rhythm of your own writing. Above all, have fun!