I was born in New Jersey, just over the bridge from Philadelphia (Go, Eagles! Go, Phillies!), and come from a large extended family. There are currently 109 of us—with a few more on the way. I love big families and since most of mine still live in or near Philly, I’m lucky that I get to go up there often.
Here are most of us at my cousin Kait’s wedding in Philly (Aug . 2013)
But, I didn’t grow up there. My parents moved us to Orlando, Florida when I was two. From there we moved to Plano, Texas for a few years and then back to Orlando, where I stayed until I left for college in Tampa, Florida (Go, Bulls!). I met my husband at USF our freshman year, and together we moved to southern Florida after graduation. I’ve been here ever since.
As a kid, I HATED my picture taken. Proof…
Me and my siblings. Pretty easy to guess which one is me.
Bad, right? My parents quickly gave up on any formal photos, and I often feel like I owe them money for constantly ruining family pictures, but I think my punishment was the fact that my own daughter is just like me. Proof…
While I still don’t love posing for the camera, I very much appreciate the story a photo tells. In fact, I’ve been in love with stories and storytelling since I can remember. I wrote my first picture book at the age of 5, but unfortunately it was written in crayon on the outside wall of my house. Had I been one to enjoy my picture being taken, my parents might have snapped one of me with that masterpiece, but instead it’s gone forever. See the irony?
When we lived in Texas, my mom used to clean a daycare facility after hours. My brother, sister, and I had to tag along, and I clearly remember sitting for hours in a bean bag chair discovering new books every single day. I even wrote my first poem there, which my mom framed for me.
Not bad, eh?
Eventually we moved back to Orlando and I’m so, so glad we did because I returned just in time to have Mrs. Strelauski for my 4th grade teacher. She was a firm believer in reading books out loud to her class, and when she read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume, well, it was THE BEST BOOK I’D EVER HEARD! I laughed! I cringed! My heart broke for Peter! I’ll say it again. Best. Book. Ever! I was hooked. From there, I devoured books on my own, and I especially loved reading to my sister before bed every night.
When I went away to college, it never occurred to me (Duh, I know!) to make a career out of something with books. Instead, I declared my major Elementary Education, did a level 1 internship, and knew it wasn’t for me. I quickly switched to Social Science Education, which is what my degree is in. Yet during my quick stint in elementary ed., I had a teacher, Dr. Gloria Houston, for my Literature for the Child class. She herself was a published author. We read and dissected numerous books that semester. I looked at her each day like she was a rock star. A real, live, published author was teaching me! About books!
Me and my kids visiting Dr. Houston on a trip to North Carolina.
When I changed to secondary Social Science education, I met another amazing teacher, Dr. Barbara Cruz. History was always a favorite subject of mine in school, but this professor taught eye-opening lessons and changed the way I viewed the world. Because of this, she makes an appearance as the teacher in my novel Just a Drop of Water. I am a writer today because of both of these women. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to repay them.
The inspiring Dr. Barbara Cruz. I hope you can have even a single conversation with this amazing woman someday.
Though I did teach social studies for a few years, I eventually left due to a pretty severe hearing loss (called Sensorineural Hearing Loss–which progressively gets worse each year.) So I am now home, writing full time, and immensely happy to do school visits as my way of staying true to my teaching roots. Though I have three poorly behaved dogs, they do keep me company during the day and listen to me when I read my work out loud.
I spend my non-writing time with my hubby at football fields, soccer fields, on volleyball courts, and in the audience of musicals watching my kids do their things. And of course, lots of my time is spent reading. I hope to meet you at an event real soon!
Happy reading, friends!