When I was three years old my parents took me to the Turnpike Restaurant on Queens Boulevard for my first New York deli meal. I don't remember what I ate, but I've been told that after being tucked into bed that night, I called out loudly: "When I eat pickles, my elbow tickles!" I had just composed my first original poem, already delighting in the sounds of words.

I was an only child, but there were plenty of other kids in the neighborhood. It was our kingdom to explore as long as we made it back in time for dinner. We bounced pink "spaldeen" balls off the walls of our apartment building's back courtyards or climbed and swung in the playground next door. On summer days we'd sunbath on the roof, running through wet bed sheets flapping on the clotheslines to cool off. Hot nights caused many families to haul folding chairs up from stifling apartments to the roof. While the adults sat kibitzing under starry skies, straining to catch a breeze, I'd strain to catch the gist of their grown-up conversations.

From early on my friends and I produced plays that I wrote and directed, always starring me and my best friend, Barbara and often adapted from fairy tales. We cooked up elaborate talent shows in which we sang, tap danced and did magic tricks. We tried to train our pets to perform, but none showed any interest in a stage debut.

My father taught me to love books by example since he often had his nose buried in one. In early childhood my mother read to me every night - Little Golden Books we bought at the candy store and picture books we checked out from the library. Of the books I owned, I most loved the language in A Child's Garden of Verses, where I poured over the illustrations by the Provensens, and cherished a collection of poems and stories about elves and fairies with dazzling art by Garth Williams that beckoned me into a secret world.

At P.S. 101 our school library was in a tower at the top of a winding stair. There I found enthralling tales of magic by Hans Christian Andersen and Andrew Lang, and fantasy books like The Princess and the Goblins and The Five Children and It. Growing up without siblings, I loved reading series books about big broods such as the All-of-a-Kind Family and Elizabeth Enright's Melendys. When I was ready for Young Adult books I started riding the subway to the Donnell Library in Manhattan which had a whole roomful. Sometimes my mom and I combined this with a museum visit, especially to the nearby MOMA, which provided inspiration for pastel drawings and paintings of my own.

Fast forward to college at S.U.N.Y. Buffalo where I met my husband, Allan. After earning an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education at Tulane, I taught Head Start and kindergarten in the New Orleans Public Schools. Then we moved to Washington, DC where I switched to different work, but it involved writing. Our family grew to include three children, Stephanie, Jonathan, and Michael.

One night when Jon was seven and I was tucking him in at bedtime he asked me, "What was the first song ever sung?" The poem I wrote to answer him became my first picture book text. Since then I've published many picture books illustrated by some extraordinary artists. I love reaching out to children, parents, teachers and librarians through the stories I write and the visits I make to schools, libraries, bookstores and festivals. When I give a talk, someone usually poses the question, "What is it like to be an author?" I tell them that, as with anything one strives to be good at, writing is hard work. But it is also terrific fun. One of the best things is to find a calling in life that makes you happy. I feel very fortunate to have been able to do just that.

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