I was born in Tacoma, Washington, a city on the beautiful Puget Sound. It is always in the background of most of my writing. The Northwest was the perfect place to grow up. The long, rainy days never bothered me. They meant I had plenty of time to read, and I seldom had my nose out of a book.
Though there was a war on during most of my young life, and food and clothing were rationed, there was no limit to my imagination. My neighborhood friends and I loved to play war, talking in bad French accents and pretending we were in the French Resistance. We dug foxholes in the yard of a very obliging neighbor, had wonderful picnics at Point Defiance Park and put on elaborate plays for the amusement of our astonished parents. I sometimes fished with my father in Puget Sound and went clam digging on the shores of the Pacific.
I spent my summers at my grandmother’s in Walla Walla, Washington. Just like Annie, I spent the sixth grade there. Being with my grandmother was always a treat, especially since she had a grocery store. My cousins lived nearby, and we managed to find adventures running through the endless gardens and orchards.
Since I had asthma, I was often home from school. In junior high I used to write romance novels in longhand on big lined school tablets. I hid them in shoe boxes because I feared my mother would think them silly.
In the fifties I graduated from college, married and moved to California where I began to teach high school. In 1961, I had a son. When he was about six months old, I started to paint and for the next twenty years I worked in oils, studied printmaking and earned a Masters in Drawing and Painting. When my son was small, he used to paint his own pictures in the bottom corners of mine.
By the time my son was in high school, I was a single mother living in Claremont, California. In 1984 I started teaching at Pitzer College where I met my husband Jack. We married in 1985, and Claremont became my permanent home. One day I was visiting a neighbor, and we started talking about the internment of the Japanese during World War II. My neighbor’s daughter overheard our conversation and was amazed to find out that even though she was studying WWII in school, she had no idea what we were talking about. That very afternoon, I went home and started writing a story about the war, fully intending to write it just for her and her sister and brother. The story became a novel, then it inspired a picture book. Though I never sold either of those books, they were the beginning of the process that led to Annie’s War.
I began Annie’s War as a story about a girl trying help her family cope with the aftermath of WWII. It soon became clear that I was writing Annie’s story to satisfy my own curiosity about how the real Miss Gloria came to be such an important part of our family. How was it that in the 1940’s, a time when prejudice was commonplace even in the Northwest, my grandmother willingly bucked the attitudes of some of her neighbors, to give Gloria a home and a job? Why was it that I had such strong images of Gloria as a part of my young life? Since I had only my own memories of that time and a few I heard from older members of my family, I set out to create the story that could have been ours.
I no longer have to keep my manuscripts in shoeboxes.