I grew up in Chicago, the youngest of five children. My father was a mailman and my mother was a housewife. My grandmother danced in stage shows; my grandfather was a musician.
My mother was always fond of books. I like to think that she passed her love of books, music, and theater along to me. I learned to read when I was only three years old. By the time I was seven, when I wasn’t reading, painting, or drawing, I was busy recreating my mother’s childhood memories of the theater into my own stories. The Mary Poppins books were the most memorable reading for me back in those days.
I always knew I would do something in the arts when I grew up. When I was eight years old, my mother bought me my first oil paint set. At that time, I thought I would become a painter.
Music came later. I turned into a serious band musician by the age of thirteen and was quite accomplished before I graduated from high school. Sandwiched in between painting and music came my love of film. I was nine years old when my mother bought me an eight millimeter film projector with a limited collection of feature length and animated films. On Saturday afternoons in late autumn and early winter, when the weather was too cold for my friends and I to play outside, I’d set up folding chairs in my basement, pop popcorn, and sell tickets to my “movie theater” to all the kids in the neighborhood. Even though I showed the same films every Saturday, my friends didn’t seem to mind. They kept coming back every week. As I grew older, I found myself writing stories more often than I found myself painting, playing music, or showing movies to my friends. Now that I am a professional writer, I realize that what I had discovered was a way to put all my loves onto paper.
Before I became a writer, I worked as an editor of children’s books. As an editor, I read so many books that I found it easy to sit down and create my own storybook. The first book I wrote was published right away. The publisher said they had been looking for a book just like the one I’d written. I felt very lucky.
I still get my ideas from other books, movies, paintings, music, and the theater. The children I meet and my own two little boys often provide the foundation for an interesting character. My purpose is always the same: I write to entertain. And, more often than not, I write to share my vision of life’s hope, its beauty and its promise.
What so I like most about being a writer? Meeting children who love to read, and who have enjoyed reading the books that I have written. For those who want to be writers, my advice is to keep reading. Reading is what makes a writer.