|Time was when my cat, Jennifer Hecate Macbeth William McKinley Elizabeth Wade, walked all over the computer keys
and helped me write. Those days are long past, and now I must type all by myself. Fortunately, I enjoy that.
You may have noticed that Jenny was named for a book. That is because I spent years as an elementary librarian.
Now I read and write things for young people.
I do not write at a set time each day. Some days the words come easily. Other days I have to work hard to find them.
Sometimes, though, I'll be doing the most ordinary thing when an Idea pops into my head. It might be a title for a book or
a way to solve a problem in the manuscript. I'm not a poet, but there have been times when words simply poured out.
These are gifts to me. I cannot conjure them – they simply come.
When my friend, Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz, needed very short
poems for a book of verse for young children, she wanted
bouncy rhymes. Besides that, they had to be about things
kids need to know. From my years at school I had no problem
with that, but try as I might, the words would not come out as
good rhyme. Then the strangest thing happened. Very early
one morning I woke up with the verse exactly right. I turned on
light to write it down and... I couldn't remember it!
After It happened a second time, I fixed that! I stashed
pencil and paper by my bed. When I woke before daylight
with words dancing in my head, I scribbled furiously. Once the
light was on, it was very hard to figure out the writing, but this
poem appeared in Poetry Works! The First Verse.
STOP, DROP and ROLL
Stop, stop, stop!
Drop to the ground.
Roll, roll, roll,
all around, all around.
If my clothes were on fire,
I'd drop to the ground.
I'd stop, drop, and roll
all around, all around.
Don't get the idea, though, that books come to me completely done in my head. I spend hours and hours finding
information. Then come weeks and months of writing and re-writing. The book has to be the best I can make it.
Writing is sometimes described as a lonely job. It is true that a writer must choose what to say and record
those words and ideas, but it would be terribly wrong to say that I work alone. I read what others have written, not
only to find ideas but also to see exactly how they put those words together to get the effect they created. Some
writers use critique groups to test ideas and sharpen their work. In my writer's journey I cannot give enough credit to
the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. More than anything else, this organization has shaped my
writing and informed my career.