I grew up in Springfield, MA. My parents, brother Kevin, sister Colleen, eccentric neighbors and a nearby convent of nuns all contributed to my quirky sense of humor. I loved my Crayola crayons, my stray cats, my EZ-Bake Oven, and daydreaming. I was an expert daydreamer.
I also loved to read and listen to stories being read. I was star-struck when I learned that Theodor Geisel once lived quite close by and Mulberry Street was but a hop and a skip away. I was known to tell stories, once regaling a roomful of relatives with a joke that would have made a sailor blush. Like the protagonist in my first novel, who compared herself to Emily Dickinson: She didn't always tell the truth straight on. Like me. I embellish. That's not the same as lying. You might say I have a natural infinity for words. I'd like to think my natural infinity for words led to my favorite job, writing children's stories.
When my little sister, Colleen, arrived, I honed my story-telling skills on her, perfecting the explanations for missing homework, my messy room, or where I'd been all afternoon. Now I'm pretty good at getting my homework done, but my room needs work, and I can easily lose track of a whole afternoon.
When I was fourteen, a cousin invited me to Cape Cod. I loved the beaches, the art galleries, and meandering along the Old King's Highway. Soon after, I decided I would move there. I did it in 1975, working in group homes, sheltered workshops, restaurants, a pre-school, and a stained glass studio. I cleaned the beaches of crude oil when a tanker wrecked. I sold antiques, houses, jewelry, and made wonderful friends. I traveled, always returning to the Cape.
In 1985, I married swash-buckler Paul Sullivan, gained two great step-sons, Kevin and Mike, and soon had a son, Kerry. I earned my master's in education and taught at the Truro Central School. My students and I visited museums and lighthouses, hiked the Truro hills, canoed the rivers, and built castles and dreams.
And we read. Every year, when I read Charlotte's Web to my fourth graders, I'd choke on the last page and one of my students would have to finish. I knew that my greatest joy would be to write a book that would touch children's hearts. When Kerry turned 12, we took a year off and sailed 4,000 miles on the Blue Moon. I began to write poems, journals, and short stories, still dreaming of writing a children's novel. When we returned, I taught for one more year. Then I decided to learn to write.
The Writing Life
When my father began to suffer from Alzheimer's, I wrote a play about a father and daughter navigating an uncertain journey. Eventually, Slow Train Coming was staged a dozen times on Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard. When my mom fell ill, I helped care for her and I began a novel. More short stories and articles were published, including and a monthly magazine column, Vintage. I joined the EZ Writers of Chatham and SCBWI, finding the camaraderie and support I needed.
My MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College gave me confidence and recognition. I wrote several picture books, and my middle grade novel, My Stupendous Fall from Grace won the Marion Dane Bauer Award. My agent Erzsi Deak of Hen and Ink gave me another boost of confidence. I've begun another middle grade novel, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, about brothers who must sail a wooden yawl 600 miles to their dying father in the Chesapeake.
I've remained active at VCFA as a graduate assistant, as a reader for Hunger Mountain and the Katherine Paterson Prize, and I've joined a third writing group made up of VCFA alums. When I'm not teaching or making whimsical jewelry, I can still be found holed up with a good book, playing with our adopted Maine Coon cat, or creating an unnecessarily complicated cake. I'm still an expert daydreamer. And my natural infinity for words keeps me writing stories for children.
Read some of my writing on my writing page.