Birthplace: Kansas City, Missouri
Education: I attended twelve schools in Washington and Idaho by the time I was sixteen, and went on to earn degrees in sociology, library science, and accounting at universities in Washington and British Columbia.
Work experience: I was a children’s librarian, CPA, and assistant library director before I began to write.
Family: Growing up, I had two younger sisters, and as a grown-up, I am married and have two children and three grandsons.
Residence: Everett, Washington and San Juan Island
Pets: currently down to one cat, named Billiken after the symbol of the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition of 1909. He has me trained to serve his meals at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., and supervises my work from his bed on top of my printer.
along. In this picture, I’m in full cowgirl regalia, ready to ride with Dale Evans and Roy Rogers on their next adventure. When I was a children’s librarian in Seattle, I spent hours at home, designing and sewing puppet costumes.
I also made a pretty good horse, pulling my younger sisters in a covered wagon.
In fourth grade, I looked forward to Thursdays, when my teacher let me spend most of the day in the school library. I read to kindergarten and first grade classes as they came in, checked books in and out, repaired books, and processed new magazines. I loved rotating the date due stamp to the next due date, the smell of library paste, dipping the metal nib of a wooden-handled pen into india ink to letter date due cards, and most of all, having younger kids calling me “library girl’ on the playground. Any similarities between Terpsichore Johnson in Sweet Home Alaska and me are purely intentional.
I survived four high schools (one of them twice) in two years and went on to nine years of college, studying a hodge-podge of sociology, accounting, public administration, education, writing, economics, library science, and children’s literature. For the first four of those college years, I worked nights, weekends, and summers at the circulation desk of a busy public library in Seattle. The summer I got to substitute for the children’s librarian while she was on vacation convinced me: I wanted to be a children’s librarian. I also wanted to write someday, but someday didn’t come until forty-five years after my first job as a librarian.
Here I am in the photo on the right, trying to look very grown-up in a suit I made myself.
Although I now spend most of my time writing and reading, I’ve had some real-life adventures, too. I have tip-toed through King Tut’s tomb, sand-boarded the dunes of western Australia, ridden a camel among the Great Pyramids, paddled with Manta rays in Moorea, and smelled the penguins in the Falkland Islands.