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The first thing you should know about me is that I hate talking about myself. I wouldn’t even be writing this bio if I weren’t literally at gunpoint.

The second thing you should know about me is that I tend to exaggerate for dramatic effect. I’m not at gunpoint at all. Please don’t notify the authorities.

The third thing you should know about me is that I appreciate you taking the time to read this. Unless you’re one of my three kids, in which case, get off the stupid computer and go ... expand your horizons ... reach your potential ... clean your room.

Okay, now that my kids are gone, I can tell you the truth about me, starting with the fact that I rarely actually make my kids clean their rooms. (That sound you hear is my mother's head shaking.) To be honest, my room is usually messier than theirs. To advance this sad state is the fact that I spill nearly every beverage I get. In fact, I just dripped coffee all over the carpet, so if you’ll please excuse me a moment …

I’m back.

In case you’re wondering if I really, truly,
honest-to-God did just spill coffee on the
carpet, the answer is yes. But I knew you
might not believe me, so I took a picture of it.

And here is my son’s dirty sock, which I
used to clean the carpet: Aren’t I efficient?


The fourth thing you should know about me is that I tend to
blather on and on about insignificant things like beverage spills.


Here is…

The Total Truth About Me

My driver’s license says I’m … well … older. But frankly, I think I never mentally made it out of high school. I can fake being a grownup really well, but I still feel 17 most of the time.

I have a husband who, thankfully, supports my writing. And listens to me complain about writing. And celebrates my achievements in writing. And generally is an all-around great guy.

Somehow, we ended up with three insanely superb kids whom I’m trying desperately not to screw up. (Okay, yes, I actually do know how we got the kids. You don’t need to send me a pamphlet from health class or anything.)

I have a lovely house which suffers from my complete lack of housekeeping skills. Let’s just leave it at that. You don’t want to know.

And I write.

Sometimes I write books, sometimes I write poems, sometimes I write blog posts, sometimes I write grocery lists. Today, for example, I’m writing my biography, which definitely will count toward my work day. Everything counts. Every last word. One funny thing you might find out about writers is that we measure everything by word-count.

“I wrote 912 words today.”

“Really? I did 1104.”

“Yes, but I also revised for two hours, sent out five queries, spent an hour researching agents, took three kids to the dentist, folded six loads of laundry, and made beef Bourguignon.”

“I still did more words than you.”

“Up yours.”

See what I mean?

Actually, the truth is that on the whole, writers are very supportive of each other. I have a spanky group of writer-friends, most of whom I’ve actually never met, because we glommed onto each other in lonely desperation connected online. (Aside: my word processor is telling me that spanky isn’t a word. Well, tough turds. I say it is. I’m a writer, and writers can make up new words if they feel like it. It’s one of the perks. That and the whole wear-your-pajamas-all-day-long thing.)

But back to my fab-o online writer-friends. Belonging to an active writing community is a kick-arse tool for warding off the isolation and insecurities of a writerly life. It makes me wonder how different Emily Dickinson’s life would’ve been if she’d had the Internet.

edchick1830: im nobody. who r u? r u nobody 2?

browningsgirl: no!!!! and u r not!!!! i tell u, hopeless grief iz passionless. want 2 go get a smoothie?

edchick1830: ok. c u there.

I also belong to a couple of real-live critique groups with actual in-the-flesh humans, all of whom I happen to adore. There’s no substitute for having a gang of exceedingly smart friends who will huddle over your manuscript and point out where it sucks. Seriously, it’s the best possible thing you could have as a writer. If you’re a children’s book writer like me and you don’t have a group like this, try joining the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and then hit up your local SCBWI chapter for a critique group. They’ll hook you up, just like they did for me so many years ago.

Speaking of many years ago, that’s when I started writing. I don’t want to go too deep into it, but let’s just say I came up through the trenches as an author. I have several manuscripts that will mold away in a drawer and never see the light of day unless I get crazy, über-famous and have to auction them off to pay my debts because I lost all my money in a cunning sheep-shearing scam or something. Even then, I’m pretty sure I’ll use a pen name, like Finky McTinkle or Tanks Gazoomba. (I’m open to suggestions.)

But I’ve learned buckets of stuff along the way. And I think I’ll close with a little smidge of it. The best advice I could give aspiring writers really boils down to two words: Read and Write.

Read as much as you can in the genre in which you want to write. If you want to write young adult novels, read young adult novels. If you want to write picture books, read picture books. And I mean a metric ton of them. There are no shortcuts here, but the good thing is that many of the books you read will blow your mind. Some will even be so good they’ll make you want to quit writing altogether. But don’t. Never, ever quit. Even if you suck. Especially if you suck. Because then you’ve got nothing to lose and nowhere to go but up.

Write as much as you can whenever, wherever, and whatever you feel like. Write about the large and small things in your life. Oh, man, do not skip the small things. They’re crucial. In 10 or 20 years when you can't even remember what you ate for dinner the night before, you’ll cherish those details. And details are what make writing come alive. So preserve as many as you can. Document your life. In fact, journal, blog, vlog, film, write plays, draw comics, make ’zines, compose music, take photographs, do whatever you need to do. Because any one of those media will teach you about story and how to tell one. And believe me, you’ll never encounter a story more important to you than your own. So, document your life. Do it. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. I’m out.

Thanks so much for being here today; you’ve been terrific. Don’t forget to tip your waiter or waitress, and please enjoy the fish.