Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


Ten Facts About the First Author I (Edie Hemingway) Ever Met

1. She was my fourth grade teacher at Sunset Elementary School in Coral Gables, Florida.

2. I knew her only as Mrs. Ormsby, a favorite teacher, but in my recent research I've found that her full name was Virginia H. Ormsby.

3. Virginia Ormsby wrote (and illustrated most of) at least a dozen books for children throughout the 1950s, 60s, and into the 70s.

4. Some of her titles are: The Little Country Schoolhouse, Long Lonesome Train Whistle, Cunning Is Better Than Strong, Twenty-One Children Plus Ten, The Big Banyan Tree, and Mountain Magic for Rosy.

5. After lunch each day, she set aside quiet writing time for her students.

6. Mrs. Ormsby must have sensed a spark of writing talent in me because whenever I finished an assignment early, she sent me to different corners of the school for extra time to write about everything I observed.

7. She sponsored a writing contest, which I won!

8. My prize was a handmade book written and illustrated by her teenage son, Alan Ormsby, titled Edith Morris Meets Charlie the Mouse. I was one of the main characters. The book is tattered and fragile now, but I take it with me on all my school visits to show the students what made me decide to become an author.

9. Mrs. Ormsby must have inspired creative talent in her son, too, because Alan Ormsby went on to be a successful director, screenwriter, make-up artist, actor, and author.

10. Mrs. Ormsby proved to me that people can write while doing many other important jobs, such as teaching. She instilled in me a love of writing, the discipline to write on a regular basis, and the will to persevere.

Thank you, Mrs. Ormsby!


Ten Authors I've Met

I can't remember for sure who was the first author I ever met, so here's a sample of ten authors I've had the privilege of meeting over the years, and some of the helpful things I've learned from them:

1. I met Tomie dePaola way back in 1984, when he graciously signed my tattered copy of The Clown of God and showed me how warm and friendly an author can be, even after a long day of book signing.

2. Nancy Carlson visited the elementary school where I was teaching in 1985 and took time from her lunch break during a very busy day to look at my illustrating portfolio and give me encouragement.

3. After I had my first book under contract with a local publisher, I met the amazing illustrator Trina Shart Hyman who offered her warm congratulations, then assured me that there were other publishers who paid their authors and illustrators a lot more than the company where I had started (and she was right!).

4. My friend author/illustrator Barbara Knutson and I began our careers at the same time. Her untimely death at an early age is an ever present reminder to make every day count.

5. During a week-long workshop, M. B. Goffstein showed me that everyone has a story to tell. Through her kindness and nurturing, she coaxed an amazing story out of every one of her thirty students. Several of us went on to get the stories we had written during that week published as books.

6. The following year I took a week-long workshop from Allen Say who wasn't afraid to be blunt with his comments ("You have some talent, David, but you've got to get a lot better."). It was an honor to be treated like a professional.

7. I was in a writing class with the prolific Judy Delton for many years. She wasn't one to beat around the bush either. "David, you're trying to write Great Literature when what you're really good at is writing humor." She was correct. She showed me that writing humor is no less worthy than writing Serious, Deep Meaningful stories. I couldn't have written my first novel without her encouragement, and I'm proud to have her name on the book's dedication page.

8. I met Sid Fleischman when he presented me with the SCBWI humor award named in his honor. It was one of the proudest moments of my life, receiving an award from an author whose books I had loved growing up.

9. What a thrill to meet the paper engineering wizard Robert Sabuda when he asked me to sign one of my books for him! He also gave me this helpful advice (which I don't always remember to follow): "Don't use a Sharpie for book signing; the signature fades in fifteen or twenty years." What a good feeling to think that someone would want to keep one of my books for that long!

10. For the past two summers I've taught at Jonathan Rand's Author Quest writing camp. The young writers who attend, our next generation of authors, remind me that writing can be joyful and fun. That's why I wanted to be an author in the first place, but I sometimes I forget that. Thank you, campers, for what you teach me.

P.S. And I did learn to attach a photo to my blog posts after all!


Nuzzle your way

The first author I met was my college roommate’s dad. I attended Lewis & Clark College where the Poet Laureate of Oregon and Poet to the Library of Congress, William Stafford taught for many years. Barbara Stafford and I, both art students, were often together. Soon I came to know her whole family. Barb’s mom, Dorothy held little tea parties at their home in Lake Oswego. Hanging out in the kitchen I sometimes read poems Bill had scribbled on notepaper and hung on the refrigerator.

Starting with little things

Love the earth like a mole,
Fur-near. Near sighted,
hold the precious clods
their fine print headlines.
Pat them with soft hands—

but spades: pink and loving, they
break rock, nudge giants aside—
affable plow.
Fields are to touch:
each day nuzzle your way.

Tomorrow the world.

William Stafford, An Oregon Message

(printed with the permission of the Stafford family)

This is quintessential Stafford philosophy—quiet, yet sure, and steadily moving along. Stafford claimed he never got writer’s block because his standards were so low. “You shouldn’t have standards that inhibit you from writing. After all, writing is a creative thing and you ought to get into action.” He said, “The correct attitude to take about anything you write is ‘Welcome! Welcome!’” (
Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation) This is not to say Stafford didn’t revise, he just didn’t let vanity keep him from starting.

Barb’s brother Kim, a poet as well as an essayist, printed his own broadsides on the Vandercook Press he had out in the back shed. This was well before the days of personal computers so I went wild over the possibilities of publishing small editions. I took a course in letterpress printing and soon I was collaborating with poets and creating chapbooks. I was honored to work with Bill on his collection,
How to Hold Your Hands When It Rains (Confluence Press, 1990).


Ten Things About: The First Author Stephanie Ever Met

1. I wish I had met an author when I was like ten. Because my dream was always to be a writer, and then I might not have waited so long.

2. The first author I met was my journalism professor who gave me a really bad grade and caused me to switch majors, and my dream of being a writer pretty much died then and there. My memories of that author have been repressed, so I will have to tell you about the second.

3. Truth be told, I didn't know the second author was an author when I first met her.

4. Until I met this author, I thought all authors ( other than the one giving out bad grades in journalism) lived in New York City and walked on water.

5. My husband and I had just returned from Africa and the Peace Corps and were living in Bozeman, Montana. I took a job as a barista at The Leaf and Bean. Within a month, the owner made me the manager.

6. The owner was Jessie Close. I didn't know anything about her other than she had two boys and was a fun boss and a good friend and had a fabulous laugh that made me laugh, too.

7. After a couple months, I found out she co-owned The Leaf and Bean with her very famous sister, Glenn.

8. About that time, I also found out Jessie was an author. Her YA novel is called "The Warping of Al." I went to the Bozeman library that very day and checked it out. It's good.

9. All my theories about authors went out the window. That dream of mine, the one about being a writer, started to itch its way back into my consciousness. I began to think about it. A lot.

10. It took me a couple years, but I did start writing stories. And sending stuff in. Thinking maybe I could be an author, too. Thanks, Jessie.