Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


An Early Story

While cleaning out a drawer recently, I came across a short story I wrote in 6th grade, entitled "Judy and Her Violin." I remember my teacher, Mrs. Rivas, spread pictures out on a table, and all the students got to look through the choices until we each found one that sparked an idea for a story. My picture was of a young girl playing a violin in an orchestra. It wasn't an ordinary orchestra, though, more likely one in a poverty-stricken/slum community. My story involved a girl who loved music and the Hull House, which was opened to improve social conditions for underserved people (mostly immigrants) in Chicago back in 1889.

About a week after I wrote the story, all the 5th and 6th graders (a couple hundred) were assembled in the auditorium, waiting for a program that was delayed for some reason. I guess the teachers were frantically trying to come up with things to kill time because the next thing I knew, my teacher was speaking into the microphone, announcing that Edith Morris would read her short story aloud. I remember my shocked walk from my seat in the auditorium up to the stage more clearly than I remember actually reading, but it makes me proud all these years later that she chose my story. I wish I still had the picture that sparked it!




When I began to color in coloring books, my sister said, "You don't color people's faces."

I ignored her. I colored pink faces pink, brown faces, black faces , purple faces. People are not all white, nor all black. We are all people of color.


In second grade my teacher asked my class to paint landscapes.

At home we had a painting by Tía Marta. It was of a river in the night, the moon reflecting on it. I decided to paint my version. Hadn't Picasso imitated other artists such as Matisse and Velazquez successfully? Why not me.

My river zigzagged down, like black cloth cut with pinking shears. The moon had ripped the river in half, its pale-yellow rays zigzagging, too.

"What's that?" my classmates asked horrified.

I tried to explain.

"It's ugly!" they said.

Wasn't that what Pablo Picasso's friends said of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon?

I should have kept my landscape.


Portrait of the Author's Father

My dad was a welder, a tree trimmer, a mechanic, and a brave and adventuresome spirit. And although he wasn't an artist, he always encouraged me to pursue whatever interested me, whether it was drawing, writing, or teaching school.

When I was in first grade, the PTA held an art contest for Father's Night (back in the 60's there had to be a special night set aside in order to get the fathers to attend PTA). All the students drew pictures of our dads. I remember working hard on my drawing (it was a contest after all!) and even annoying my teacher with repeated requests for a forest green (not regular green) crayon so I could get my dad's eyes just right.

My dad wasn't big on PTA meetings but he knew this was important to me, so he dressed up in his one and only suit and headed to school. When the first grade fathers lined up with their portraits, my drawing was chosen as the winner (it must have been that forest green crayon or the accurate portrayal of my dad's wrinkled forehead). When he came home late that night, my dad woke me up to show me the prizes we had won: a pen and pencil set for him, the Bumper Book of Poetry for me.

It's a very happy memory.


Austin Teen Book Festival!

This past weekend I had the honor of attending the Austin Teen Book Festival in Texas. The enthusiasm of so many young adult readers was inspirational and was a gift to witness. The keynote speaker was New York Times Bestselling author Ellen Hopkins. A plethora of top names in Young Adult literature were flown in from as far off as Canada and Australia. They included our own potato, S. (Stephanie) A. Bodeen, James Dashner, Ally Carter, Pam Bachorz, Catherine Jinks, Jon Skovron, Kenneth Oppel, Susan Colasanti, Charles Benoit, Melissa de la Cruz, Nancy Werlin, Alexandra Adornetto Kiersten White and Sophie Jordan. Wonderful company, with an overflowing audience as well. And to top it off, time shared with my friend Stephanie!

To learn more, check out thier website-- austinteenbookfestival.com

Nurturing the young writer/illustrator

In this class picture I sit next to the teacher. My best friend/writing partner, Leslie, is directly behind me in the top row. Everyday after school we wrote stories together. Our creations ran parallel themes. I particularly recall chapter books along the theme of the TV show Lost. Leslie wrote about a group of kids stranded on a deserted island. My characters wandered in the woods. At the end of each session we read aloud to one another and had new inspiration for the following day.

After a cleaning binge, my mother passed off a box of my creative writing from junior high. Schlock! Among these gems were also mimeographed sheets describing different writing genre (many on various forms of poetry), as well as peer critiques. I was clearly given tools and support, but needed more compelling writing prompts.

My mother did not keep my old artwork—small house, four kids—can’t blame her. I have one child and resolved I would preserve her writing and artwork. I began making books of Kate's work in her early years. Before she could write I had her dictate descriptions and stories associated with her artwork. This prompted Kate to draw, paint and write more and more. Encouragement matters! Pictured is my budding author/illustrator and her works at ages 3, 5 and 8.