Frequently Asked Questions
l. When were you born?
October 19, 1958
2. Where were you born?
Troy, New York
3. How old are you?
See question 1 and do the math. :)
4. What’s your favorite book you’ve ever read?
I’ve read thousands of books and generally find something good in all. The first book I remember loving was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I connected with the character, “Jo.” I saw myself in her. Like Jo, I loved to write.
5. What’s your favorite book you’ve written?
There will always be a fond place in my heart for The Wedding Planner’s Daughter because it was my first novel, but just as I love each of my children totally and uniquely, I love each of my books in a special way. There is a
“firefly moment” connected to each, a piece of me inside. With every new book, more of what I truly care about becomes apparent. I learn who I am as I write.
6. Did you write stories when you were young?
I don’t remember writing stories as a child. I read them. I always kept journals, though, and wrote lots of poetry and the occasional song and play which I would coerce my siblings into performing. Thankfully they have forgiven me.
7. Do you have kids?
Three wonderful sons: Christopher, Connor and Dylan.
8. Do you have any pets?
Two adopted-from-a-shelter cats, Lily and "Bro," both girls, best friends, and an extremely, shall we say "energetic," new Jack Russell terrier, Shakespeare, who is trying to join his big sisters' club and be calm while "Mommy" is writing. Hope springeth eternal.
9. Where do you live?
Troy, NY (Previously in Guilderland, NY)
10. Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy traveling, going to the theater, watching movies, playing board games, and gardening. I enjoy hosting parties for my family and friends and I LOVE to dance. Invite me to a party and I’ll be the first one up. :)
11. How many books have you had published?
20 as of 2015 (3 new books are under contract)
In order of publication date, they are:
The Remembering Book, Books Worth Writing, 1992
How Prudence Proovit Proved the Truth About Fairy Tales, Simon& Schuster, 2004
26 Big Things Small Hands Do, Free Spirit Publishing, 2005
The Wedding Planner’s Daughter, Simon& Schuster, 2005
The Cupid Chronicles, Simon& Schuster, 2006
Mack McGinn’s Big Win, Simon & Schuster, 2007
Willa by Heart, Simon & Schuster, 2008
Catching the Sun, Charlesbridge, 2008
The Funeral Director’s Son, Simon & Schuster, 2008
Sunny Holiday, Scholastic Press, 2009
Forget Me Not: from the life of Willa Havisham, Scholastic Press, 2009
Kip Campbell’s Gift, Simon & Schuster, 2009
A Pearl Among Princes, Dial, Penguin Putnam 2009
Sweet and Sunny, Scholastic Press, 2010
Wish I Might: from the life of Willa Havisham, Scholastic Press, 2010
From Willa, With Love, Scholastic Press, 2011
Dreamsleeves, Scholastic Press, 2012
BIG, Little Pickle Press, 2012
FIREFLIES: A Writer's Notebook, Little Pickle Press, 2014
Writing it Right, Troy Bookmakers, 2014
12. How many books will you write?
As many as I can.
13. What is your favorite part about writing?
The surprise of it -- not knowing what will happen next. That, and becoming so totally engrossed in the writing that I lose track of time.... it's as if I'm in another space... a more enlightened zone.... writing what I'm hearing inside.... fast as I can so I don't miss a word.... trusting that Spirit knows the next step and the work knows more than I do.
14. Where do you get your ideas?
The really good stuff comes when I’m least expecting it – most often when I’m out running (I run 3 miles daily) or driving my car. These sparks – a character’s voice, an opening line, a plot idea, a title—come unannounced, like fireflies on a summer’s night—and I try to catch them on paper as quickly as I can.
Every morning I read two newspapers and when stories strike a chord in me, I cut them out and pop them into one of the various seed baskets containing snippets of ideas for books I am interested in writing. The tallest baskets are for Willa and Sunny – my two main series’ protagonists.
As I’m out and about in life, I will sometimes catch a bit of conversation, or see words (there's an old brick building with inspiring quotes painted on the side near my house), or meet a person who intrigues me, or I'll notice something beautiful in nature and I’ll jot these impressions down.
Sometimes an editor or publisher will suggest a great title to me (thank you Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Rubin Pfeffer, Alisha Niehaus, Rana DiOrio... ) and then I’ll muse on that awhile.
15. How do you start a book?
Different writers have different methods. I start writing when I have my main character and I know what he or she wants more than anything in the world. I don’t do outlines. I’d feel trapped by that. I enjoy the surprise of discovering what will happen next. I get inside my characters and try to experience not so much their thoughts as their feelings-- happy, sad, excited, afraid. I show up on the page trusting that if I do my part, they will do theirs.
16. Why did you become a writer?
I am a writer because I was a reader. When I was a little girl, my Mom and I would ride the city bus uptown to the grand old Troy Public Library on Second Street. I’d stick my hands in the mouths of the stone lions guarding the neighboring Rensselaer County Courthouse building then, pull hard to open that heavy wooden castle-like library door. The treasures inside were all mine for a time, in exchange for that card with my signature on it.
17. Did you want to be anything else besides a writer?
All I ever wanted to be was a teacher, but when I was graduating from high school and moving on to college I remember a guidance counselor telling me that the job-market was awful for teachers (there were too many) and so I went a different path. I guess that’s one of the reasons I love doing author visits at schools so much. I get to be a teacher for a time. I also love teaching adult students at The Arts Center of the Capital Region and as an adjunct professor at The Sage Colleges, and at writing conferences and retreats.
18. Is it hard being a writer?
At this point in my writing life (and I’m fully aware this may change) I absolutely love what I am doing. My work is joyful. The hard part was breaking in to the field and selling that first book. I was rejected 179 times on dozens of different stories before they let me in the club. Now, the most difficult thing is trying to make a living from this gig.
19. Is it fun being a writer?
YES! I liked my other jobs, but this is different. Writing is my passion. I am happiest when I am writing. This work doesn't feel like work.
20. Did anyone inspire you to be a writer?
Many fine teachers encouraged me as a writer, but my mother was, and still is, my greatest inspiration. Growing up we had six children in our family and, in addition to being a homemaker, my Mom also worked a second full-time job outside the house. For one long stretch she worked a 4pm-11pm shift. She would come home exhausted, but would still make time to write--journals and poetry and letters. Sometimes I’d get up late and sneak out to the kitchen to watch her write. Her hands would be moving swiftly "click-clacketing" on an old manual typewriter or making a curly cursive scrawl across the page and there was an almost transcendent look of joy on her face. I wanted to know that world. I wanted to be where she was. My Mom never had the time or financial freedom to go to college or pursue publication of her poetry, essays, and memoirs. She is one of the finest writers I know. She always was my harshest editor and greatest cheerleader. I recently co-authored an inspirational memoir called Writing it Right with my Mom. It was her first published book, my 20th. The year we spent writing that book.... helping each other through very painful patches in our lives....was a profound joy for which I am forever grateful.
21. What advice do you have for a beginning writer?
Read, Read, Read and Write, write, write. The more you write, the better the writing becomes.
Write what you know. Write what you love. Write you heart out. If you want to be a writer, write.