I grew up in a one hundred-year-old house in a small Texas town. As Anne of Green Gables would say, that house had plenty of "scope for imagination." My three younger sisters and I would play dress up in the attic, put on plays in the parlor, and record our made-up songs in Daddy's office. Mama's voice could frequently be heard reading or telling stories, and Daddy sang to us nightly while playing his guitar.
Thanks to my three little sisters, I was able to remain a child longer than most people do. My youngest sister was born when I was about a month shy of turning eleven. As a teenager, I would read picture books to her. All of us sisters would gather around the fairy tale movies she begged to watch. I made up many a story late at night for that littlest sister of mine. We liked to talk to the moon and stars.
The Christian school I attended backed up to an empty field. I filled up that field with daydreams, and that school—more like an extended family—filled me with a love of learning. I grew up and studied English at Baylor University. After graduation, I married a man who was brave enough to share his poems with me—a man who had the courage to walk across campus wearing the flowers I had tucked into his hair during our picnic.
I became a teacher. I taught 8th grade, 6th grade, 1st grade, 5th grade, and 4th grade. Of course, my favorite subject to teach was always writing. I liked it so much that I took graduate classes in creative writing at night. My students graciously listened to many of my early drafts.
Now my husband and I have a little boy who loves books (especially poetry books). Once again, I am telling stories at night and talking to the moon and stars. But now, as soon as my little one is sleeping, I rush downstairs and write the stories down.
Will there be more books?
I am working on them now.
Are you the character Kathleen?
No. Kathleen is a much finer pianist, and she doesn’t worry nearly as much as I do.
When do you write?
Anytime an idea comes to me. Sometimes I’ll be eating breakfast with my little boy when an idea for a poem floats like a bubble to the forefront of my mind. I have to run to my computer to “catch” it.
Did you choose your illustrator?
Ideals chose Jim Madsen, but he is exactly who I would have picked. He read my manuscript so thoroughly and brought the characters in my mind “ to life.” I will always be grateful.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I like to read and sing with my son. I also enjoy gardening, jogging, playing the piano, taking long walks with my husband, and cozying up with family and friends.
What song were you imagining when you wrote The Christmas House?
Although I wasn’t imagining just one song, in my mind I heard music like the moving, instrumental carols on the CD, Winterfall, by Lee Spears and Donna Beck Michael. I do especially love the title song. My favorite book of piano music is Simply Christmas by Jerry Ray.
Here is a list of some of my favorite children’s books. Feel free to use it as a starting point when you visit the library or the bookstore. I will be adding to it as I recall old gems and discover new ones.
Cowley, Joy. Mrs. Wishy Washy
dePaola, Tomie. Te Amo Sol
Berger, Barbara. Grandfather Twilight
Brett, Jan. Honey, Honey, Lion!
Brown, Margaret Wise. Goodnight Moon
Bunting, Eve. The Sunflower House
Butler, John. Ten in the Den (adorable pictures of animals)
Carlson, Nancy. It’s Going to Be Perfect!
Cronin, Doreen. Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type
Cruise, Robin. Little Mama Forgets
Duncan, Alice Faye. Honey Baby Sugar Child
Falconer, Ian. Olivia series
Field, Rachel. Prayer for a Child
Fox, Mem. Harriet You’ll Drive Me Wild
Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge
Frame, Jeron Ashford. Yesterday I Had the Blues
Gray, Libba Moore. Miss Tizzy
My Mama Had a Dancing Heart
Henkes, Kevin. Chrysanthemum
Johnson, Angela. When I Am Old with You
Kasza, Keiko. A Mother for Choco (an adoption story)
Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody. My Penguin Osbert
Lindbergh, Reeve. The Visit
McPhail, David. The Teddy Bear
Munsch, Robert. I Love You Forever
Nye, Naomi Shihab. Baby Radar (for children 3 and under)
Rosen, Michael. We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
Rylant, Cynthia. Christmas in the Country
The Relatives Came
Tulip Sees America
When I Was Young in the Mountains
Sakai, Komako. Emily’s Balloon (for children 3 and under)
Sendak, Maurice. Where The Wild Things Are
Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree
Spinelli, Eileen. Callie Cat, Ice Skater
Tea Party Today (cozy poetry)
When Mama Comes Home Tonight
Waddell, Martin. Once There Were Giants
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
Wood, Audrey. Quick as a Cricket
Wood, Douglas. Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth
Zolotow, Charlotte. Do You Know What I’ll Do
Some Things Go Together
Babbit, Natalie. Tuck Everlasting
Burnett, Frances Hodgson. The Secret Garden
DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn Dixie
Johnston, Tony. Any Small Goodness: A Novel of the Barrio
MacLachlan, Patricia. Baby
Sarah Plain and Tall
Montgomery, L.M. Anne of Green Gables
Rylant, Cynthia. Missing May
White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web