I will be teaching an online class through the Writing Barn, called “Making it Through the Middle: Getting Your Story Unstuck.” I can help you tackle those pages and pages in the middle of your novel where you lose readers because the energy dropped out of your story.
Before I was an author, before almost anything else in my life, I was a horse-girl. Still am. My kitchen has halters on the counter, my shirts have horses on them, my boots are dusty from the paddock, and I probably have a bit of hay in my hair. These are a few of the horses I have loved. Send me an email and tell me about yours!
My dad bought LoreLei for me when we first moved to Texas. I was thirteen and she was three. This horse and I cantered down the streets of Houston in the dark of night and I never once questioned her ability to take care of me. I had her for seventeen years until she passed away from one of the first cases of Potomac Horse Fever in Texas.
This rascal was one of the most beloved ponies I have ever had the honor of knowing. He came to be a school pony at a horse farm I managed in Maryland, but he was fresh and untrained and when the back of the trailer opened, he bolted from within and ran for the woods. Fortunately, he ended up in a paddock near the edge of the woods where he lived for three weeks before I could get my hands on him. Tugboat was the inspiration for Fire in Lizzie Flying Solo. He will always be the pony of my heart.
In the early 1980’s I managed an Arabian horse breeding farm in TX. Twenty-two years later, a granddaughter of the horses I handled was born in New Jersey. Two years after that, I came across this filly on an equine for sale site on the internet and knew I had to go see her. She was too young for the type of horse I wanted at the time, but when she turned around in the stall and looked at me, I knew I wasn’t going to leave that farm without her. We have been partners ever since. Our favorite ride is up this mountain where she is standing in the photo, full of aspen groves, lodgepole forests, and miles of a mountainside heavy with fragrant sage. I am so lucky to have both my beloved Dallas and this beautiful place I call home.
Sonnet lived in the wild outside Burns, Oregon until she was close to seven years old when she was “gathered” and brought to live in pens at the BLM facility. The first time I saw her photo, I fell in love with that face and drove fourteen hours to Oregon to get her, to let her come live a quiet life in my fields.
When my mother gave me a doll for Christmas one year, I cut off its blond hair and glued it to the neck of my plastic horse so it would be warm over the chilly winter. I was an animal lover from birth and have had literally thousands of different pets over the years – horses, ponies, dogs, cats, bunnies, fish, birds, you name it. Right now my horse, Dallas, an Arabian I have had fifteen years since she was a baby, lives in the barn at my house. I am ruled by a fluffy white Akbash dog named Sufi, and a cat I adore. Strangely, cats are the one animal I have never been extremely fond of until Kitty came into my life two years ago. I also have a mountainside full of birds, raptors, elk, moose, bear, coyotes, foxes (both a red fox and a silver fox), bald eagles, Great Grey Owls, mountain lions, and wolves out the back door.
Robert Frost said, “A poem begins with a lump in the throat; a homesickness or a love sickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment.” This is exactly how I feel and where I find inspiration — a memory that keeps rising up in my heart; a place that offered me a wonderful sensory experience; words overheard that resonated with me; a facial expression; a beautiful moment, a sad moment, an exhilarating moment. I am very inspired by nature and often by characters in other books who I love.
When I was three I went on vacation to Donegal, Ireland where I rode a pony for the first time. Ask me anything about that experience, I remember every detail and have been a horse-girl ever since.
At age nine, I read Black Beauty. When I closed the book I knew I would become an author, and I would write books for kids. It took me longer than I planned, but here I am! I still have my worn copy of that book.
I was twenty-four years old when my first son, Parker, was born. My second son, James, was born when I was twenty-nine. Being a mother is the best and most important job I have ever had. Writing books for children is a close second.
In 2009 my family experienced a life-altering event when one of my son’s had a critical illness that required life support. After he was out of the hospital six months later, I was so grateful for his life that I started the Literacy for Hope Project which is dedicated to getting books into the hands of homeless people.
Even though people told me I was crazy, I was fifty-five years young when the mountains in western Wyoming called to me. I moved across the country by myself to live near them. It was only after I moved that I realized this was truly home and I probably should have been living near these mountains my whole life.
I signed my first publishing contract with HarperCollins when I was fifty-six years old. My first book, Swing Sideways, was published two years later at the ripe age of fifty-eight. So don’t ever let anyone say it is too late to do what you always dreamed of doing. It just isn’t true.