As a child with dyslexia, I was a very poor reader. The first chapter book I read was Boxcar Children , which I finished only because I had to find out what happened. Probably because I did so poorly in school, I had little confidence and did not have many friends. In fact, my first stories were written out of loneliness and were not intended to be read by anyone.Young Author
By the time I was twelve, though, everything had changed. I had become an "A" student and was known as “the kid who wrote.” I spent many summer hours under an apple tree in Spokane, Washington, creating happy worlds on tablet paper. My seventh-grade teacher encouraged me to submit some of those stories to magazines, and that was the start of my rejection slip collection, which eventually grew to almost 200! Later in college, I studied subjects I thought might be useful to an author—English, science, philosophy and drama.
Becoming an author took longer than I expected. First, I worked on newspapers, sold poetry and articles to magazines, and finally sold my first book to Atheneum in 1979. I was thirty-six years old. My early books were partly-true stories from my own life or from the lives of my children. How I Found Myself at the Fair is about a shy girl who gets lost at a state fair, A Bundle of Sticks tells the tale of a boy who learns martial arts as a way of defeating a bully, Rip-Off relates the tribulations of a girl who gets caught shoplifting, and Patti's Pet Gorilla recounts the time I told a whopper of a lie at show-and-tell. Love is for the Dogs , entirely fiction, followed as an Avon Flare paperback.
Being a Winner
When authors write books, they often sit alone at a desk (or the kitchen table, or in the car) and create characters and situations that never existed before. We hope someone will read what we write and that they will like what they read. Most of the time, though, we don’t know. That’s why we are so happy when our books receive positive reviews or win contests. My book about Pete, A Bundle of Sticks , won the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award in Vermont, the Mark Twain Award in Missouri, and the Washington State Governor’s Award. It was also a finalist for several other state awards.
I was happy as a writer until it became necessary for me to earn a steady paycheck at a regular job. When I went to The Boeing Company for my first interview, I took all of my children’s books with me. Those books represented my only real work experience. I told them, “What I do best is simplify the language,” and to my surprise and extreme relief, Boeing hired me. For the next decade, I wrote science brochures, news articles for employees, technical papers, and public relations materials. At Boeing I learned to find information and to write fast, which sometimes meant I had to write things that I knew were not my best work. But I also learned to rewrite, a very important skill for authors. Often I rewrite my books ten times or more, changing what happens in the story or just changing the way people talk on paper. Off and on during those years I also wrote for Microsoft, primarily working on THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS computer games.
Years later, I left Boeing and decided to try writing books again. It had been a long time, but I wanted to tell one particular story. It was the unusual story of me and my sister growing up in Spokane. Pictures in the Dark is not entirely true, but many things that happened to us are in the book. The spooky house on the cover looks like the place on Sherman Street where we lived during most of our school years.
If I had not become an author, I would have been a scientist, maybe an astronomer. I love to look up at the stars and wonder what’s out there. My husband and I have seen two space shuttle launches up close in Florida, and have visited a number of important observatories. Arizona, with its fabulous clear skies, is the perfect place for me.
Being an Author
Being an author means you never have to be bored. As soon as I finish one book, I begin a new one. It can be about anything in this world, or out of this world. I am currently working on a book about UFOs, for which I got to do some very interesting research. Not everything I write becomes a book, though. Sometimes I just practice. In my desk drawer are many unfinished books, stories that did not hold my interest long enough or that got “stuck” in the middle. Pictures in the Dark was one such book until I figured out a good way to end the story. That ending turned out to be the truest part of the whole book.
If you think you would like to be an author, click on “Write Your Own Book” for my easy way to write a chapter book. I call it MM, for the McCord Method.