I come from the land of grits and kudzu where the summers are hot enough to cook eggs on concrete―in other words, Georgia. One of my earliest memories of the connection between books and writers is about one of my cousins. You see, she had written a book, and even as a kid I loved books! Mama said I was NOT allowed to read this one. She tucked it among the paperback mysteries on her bedtime reading shelf, but I managed to catch a glimpse of the title: Skidmarks to Hell. I could hardly wait to get my hands on that book! Mama made sure I didn’t, at least not till I was grown. Even then, I kept glancing over my shoulder as I turned the pages, sure I was going to get in a passel of trouble. My cousin’s book was steamier than the streets after a summer thunderstorm, and I keep a copy of it on my bookshelf to this day.
I fear that reading my cousin’s book put me on the skids toward becoming a “creative type.” I took oil painting classes and filled a lot of canvases with seascapes featuring boats (as you can see). Next, I painted my fingernails black with white polka dots and discovered that paint made for walls gives you warts when you paint your nails with it. Go figure! Next I hobbled through a role as Grandma Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof and sang a solo at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall. Then my high school psychology teacher told me I should be a writer. She also tried to explain the meaning of infinity, which I still don’t understand. But I think the two things are connected—writing and infinity. They both go on and on and on and . . .
I married young―that’s what good Southern Baptist girls did back then. I had an Easter basket full of kids (five, if you’re counting hatchlings) and kept writing to keep my brain from turning to scrambled eggs. My kids provided endless learning experiences. Need to put fretting babies to sleep? Drive them around in a car until their heads start to bob. Want a new dress? Change the baby’s diaper at an inopportune moment. Need an excuse to check out an armload of children’s books from the library? Take along all five children. Want to keep believing in magic? Hang around with kids as much as you can!
So how did I end up pretending to eat a bowl of Cheerios with the staff of Highlights for Children? This, too, may hark back to my attempts to understand infinity or the childhood shock of reading Skidmarks to Hell or perhaps it was birthing all those babies. Who can really know how one thing leads to another? Popping tar bubbles with my flip-flops, making glow-in-the-dark rings out of lightning bugs (sorry!), years addicted to Nancy Drew mysteries, facing down the Man with No Nose with my Woolworth’s six-shooters, gulping bottles of frozen Co-Cola, scarfing down Varsity hot dogs and Chik-fil-a sandwiches, moving from Georgia to New Mexico to South Carolina to California to North Carolina to Oregon to Pennsylvania and, finally, back to California where I live and work today. It may not make much sense, but, unlike fiction, life doesn’t have to! It just has to be interesting.