I BOOK ORDERING
was born in the west Texas town of White Face. My father was an
oil field worker who had been transferred to Texas from Oklahoma.
I had five older brothers and sisters, and when I was seven years
old, my little brother was born. I was only a few months old when
the family moved back to Oklahoma, but being born in Texas had
a big impact on my life. Because I was the only one in the family
born outside of Oklahoma, one of my uncles always called me "
Tex. " My oldest brother used to tell me that the family
found me in a tumble weed. I was fairly certain he was only teasing,
but when I heard the song, "Tumbling Tumble Weed," I
felt a little thrill.
were always important in our family. My grandmother, my mother,
my father, and my aunts, and my uncles were all storytellers.
I never tired of hearing the stories about what went on in the
Oklahoma hills where my parents grew up as neighbors. My older
brothers and sisters loved books. Going to the library on Saturdays
was a big event at our house, and my older siblings frequently
read aloud to me.
was that love of stories, I believe, that made me decide early
on that I wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first story the summer
before I went to first grade. We did not have kindergarten in
Oklahoma during those days, so I had to dictate my story to one
of my older sisters. I charged each of my siblings, including
the one who wrote it down for me, a quarter a piece to read it.
That was $1.25, big money for me, and I decided right then to
be a writer.
summer between fifth and sixth grade, I talked my two best friends
into forming a story club with me. We were to write a story each
week and meet at one of our homes each Friday night to read them.
My first story was called Memory Lane. It was a romance,
and I thought it was beautiful. I could not wait to get to my
friend's house so that I could read it. When I got there, I discovered
that neither of my friends had finished their stories. I jerked
them out of their hands with, "Here, give them to me. I'll
finish them." While we were reading our stories, one of my
friends suggested that on the next Friday night we should go skating.
The other friend agreed that a skating club would be more fun
than a story club.
went to college at what is now the University of Central Oklahoma
and got a degree in English education. After college, I was a
teacher of English, and I've taught in Tulsa and Norman, Oklahoma,
and New York City. For 25 years, I taught in high schools and
junior highs, and most of those years were spent in Chandler Junior
1969 in Woodstock, New York, I married a young man named Paul
Myers. We were married thirty years, when he died of cancer. Paul
was my best friend and my partner in everything. Because he was
a poet and extremely talented with words, he helped me a great
deal with my writing.
and I had three children, Ginny, Ben, and Anna-Maria, all born
within four years. For a while, I was a very busy mother, but
I still thought that some day I would be a writer. By the time
the kids were in upper elementary school, I knew I had to get
serious to help pay for their college education.
took me seven years to sell my first book. I never got just a
cold rejection, always a maybe or a "Change this and send
it back." When the deal would finally fall through, I would
sometimes be so discouraged that I would cry. My kids would encourage
me not to give up, but I would see them look at each other with
a comment in their eyes that said I should just get real and clean
up the house.
first book came out in 1992, and I have done one each year since
then. All of the books are historical fiction. Two of my books
have received Oklahoma Book Awards - Red-Dirt Jessie
in 1993 and Graveyard Girl in 1995. Other awards and
honors I've received include a Parents' Choice Award, an Independent
Publishers' Award, a Bank Street College Children's Book of the
Year, and my books have been on the New York Public Library's
Books for the Teenage, the American Library Association's Quick
Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, the New York Public Library's
Books to Read and Share, and the American Bookseller's Pick of
the List. My books have also been included on children's choice
lists for more than 20 states.
my latest books areTulsa Burning, which is about the
Tulsa race riot of 1921, when thirty-five square
blocks of African American homes, business, churches, and schools
were burned (Tulsa Burning is on the 2004/2005 PA Young
Readers' Master List); Flying Blind, which is narrated
partly by a scarlet macaw with an attitude and partly by a boy
who wants to try to save the water birds in Florida, which were
almost wiped out during the 1900's because of the women's hat
trade; and Hoggee, which features a boy who works on
the Erie Canal and feels inferior to his brother, but his desire
to help a girl who can neither hear nor speak, ultimately leads
him to believe in himself.
still live in Okalahoma. My second husband, John Calvin, and I
live in Tulsa, where I'm a lifetime member of the Oklahoma Writers'
Federation and serve as the regional advisor for the state Society
of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
long ago when I was just a girl, I had a Sunday school teacher
who used to say, "If you don't know where you have been,
you can't know where you are going." I like to think my books
help kids know where we have been.