I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I am the oldest of seven children and, as you might imagine, our house was noisy. It was great being from such a big family because there was always someone to play with, and there was always someone to go adventuring with. My three sisters and I are close in age and on summer mornings we’d set off on our bikes to go exploring. We lived in a somewhat rural area and there were woods to explore, and a duck pond, and hills to race down on our bikes. In winter we skated on the pond and built elaborate snow forts in our back yard.
Growing up in a noisy house has its downsides, of course, especially if you liked to read, which I did. Luckily, there was a large, walk-in closet with an overhead light. I’d hide in there to read and if someone called me, I’d pretend I didn’t hear. I loved adventure stories and stories about animals. If they combined adventure and animals, it was the best of both worlds. Some of my favorites were The Call of the Wild, My Side of the Mountain, and Julie of the Wolves. I also loved books about resourceful kids who had to figure out how to live on their own, like The Boxcar Children, or someone who found herself in a situation she had to make the best of, such as Anne of Green Gables. One of my prized possessions was my library card; it was the key to any world I wanted to enter.
I didn’t consciously want to be a writer. In fact, I didn’t do any of the things aspiring writers say they do, such as keep a journal. I did, however, write plays, and would enlist my sisters and brothers to act in them. I’m not sure how they felt about that (you’d have to ask them) but there they were, a ready-made cast. Holiday extravaganzas and pageants were my specialty and we performed the shows for our parents and other captive audiences.
I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison with a teaching degree in comparative literature and taught Russian literature to high school students for a year. I liked teaching, but felt I needed a break from being in school and so I answered an ad for an editor at Western Publishing Company/Golden Books in Racine, Wisconsin. When I discovered the job was in the children’s book department, I confessed I knew nothing about children’s book. I’m not sure why they hired me, but I’ll always be grateful they did. I learned how to be an editor, and because they were then the primary publisher for “Sesame Street” books, I got to meet and work with Jim Henson and other people on the show. Soon, I was not only editing books, I was writing them, too. It was great.
Because of Sesame Street, I met other editors and one of them told me about a job opening at Parents’ Magazine, as the editor of Humpty Dumpty Magazine in New York City. I had been there once before but I’d fallen in love with it and dreamed that one day I’d live there. So I applied for the job and got it.
My relationship with Sesame Street would continue for many years as I wrote over forty books for them and for the Muppet organization. I also continued to work with Western Publishing and wrote many Golden Books, including Panda Bear’s Paintbox and Theodore Mouse Goes to Sea. After working at Humpty Dumpty for several years, I left to become a fulltime writer. For Parents’ Magazine Book Club I wrote Bicycle Bear and The Very Bumpy Bus Ride, among many other titles. I guess you could say I never really left any job I ever had!
Today I live in Shelter Island, New York, with my husband, Nik Cohn. He’s a writer, too, but he writes for grownups. We have two dogs, Beau and Tess. Every morning, they come to work with me in a cottage at the far end of our property. I call them my staff.
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