Naturalist, children’s book author, poet, teacher, birder—I’m all of these things. Which is why I’m so excited to announce my new picture book, Bird Count, coming out from Peachtree Publishing Company in October 2019!
In Bird Count, sumptuously illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman, a child becomes a citizen scientist for a day in her town’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Peachtree Publishing Company released a sneak peek on National Bird Count Day, January 5. Check it out on Twitter.
When did you first know you wanted to write?
Ever since I can remember, I kept a notebook to jot down poems, stories, and songs. I love being outdoors, and my early writing was filled with stories and poems about nature. When I was in grade school, I wrote my first series of poems featuring woodland animals—a raccoon, an otter, and a fox—and stapled it together into a little booklet. I can still recite some of those lines from memory!
I was also a voracious reader, but didn’t always know I wanted to create books for other people to read. I loved Beatrix Potter and A.A. Milne, and the poems of Robert Louis Stevenson. When I was a little older, I’d go to the library and sweep a whole shelf of horse books by Marguerite Henry or dog books by Jim Kjelgaard to bring home. Two of my favorite books were A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle and The Year of the Raccoon by Lee Kingman. I read them both every year so I could experience the complete range of emotions each time. I decided that I wanted to be able to make people feel like that!
How do you get your ideas?
In life! Stay active and curious and ideas will often just present themselves. The idea for Bird Count came from my own experience participating in the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count. Because I love birds and birdwatching, it was a natural when a local birder in town asked me if I could join one of the Acton teams.
My poems spring out of hiking trips, family vacations, birdwatching expeditions, or simply walks in the woods with my family, when we might encounter a deer or a turtle, find wild blueberries, or hear an owl call. I also write nature-based curriculum, and my first poetry collection came out of a project about the Peruvian Amazon. When I heard the fascinating stories told about Amazon pink river dolphins, I knew I had to write a book of poems about them.
What books have you published?
My first children’s book is coming out soon from Peachtree Publishers. It’s called Bird Count and is about an annual census that the National Audubon Society conducts each year called the Christmas Bird Count. Each team is assigned a territory, and, during a 24-hour period, we count every single bird we see. It's a lot of fun, and a great way to learn our resident birds, those which stay around all year.
I also write poetry and have published five books for adults: Before We Were Birds, Increase, Purgatory Chasm, Birding in Winter, and Boto. I have also published more than 100 poems in journals and anthologies, including one in the children’s magazine, The Dolphin Log of the Cousteau Society.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I spend as much time outdoors as possible! I love to travel, and to hike and canoe with my husband Jim, and daughters, Elana and Sonia. Whenever I travel to a new place, one of the first things I do is learn the local wildlife! Once I recognize the bird songs and the animals I see around me, I start to settle in and feel at home. My most exciting trips recently were with Sonia to New Zealand, where she was on a college semester abroad, and with Elana to Ireland, where we also visited some of her college friends. I'm glad my daughters are interested in seeing other lands and cultures, just like Jim and me. Last spring, Elana volunteered in Sri Lanka, bringing mental health services to communities there, and Sonia is teaching elementary students in South Korea this year.
I have the best job in the world, teaching at a nature-based preschool that is also a farm and wildlife sanctuary. I love helping my students learn to milk the cow, groom the pony, gather eggs, and grow their own food, as well as observe the ponds, forests, and fields in every season.
Those are answers to just a few questions you might have about me. If you think of others, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.