I was born in the summer of 1956 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and grew up not far from there in Cheswick, a town on the Allegheny River. My mother taught elementary school and my dad was a lab technician. My sister Cathie taught me to read when she was six and I was four.
We lived in a little brick house on a street full of nearly identical brick houses, one of several such streets on top of a hill, right next to some woods and a place called “the Boney Dump.” Nearly three dozen kids lived on our street alone. We rode our bikes everywhere. We played wiffle ball and dodge ball on the street, jumped rope, spun hula hoops, ate birthday cake, rooted for the Pirates, caught lightning bugs, ran through the sprinkler, went sledding, hiked through the woods to the creek (where we were supposed to watch out for hobos), waited for the ice cream truck, played board games, went to church, played cards, went to school, got measles, did our chores, clamped skates to our shoes, watched TV, sat on porches and curbs and around kitchen tables, talking, or listening to the grownups talking.
Lynne Rae a long time ago Lynne Rae more recently
We went on vacations to the seashore and to see our cousins in West Virginia. There were quiet times, too: time to read, to lie in the hammock, to be bored, to make projects, to play piano, to daydream.
It was a pretty wonderful world to be a child in.
And the future was bright. Something was bound to happen. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm sold soap to a man who turned out to be rich and kind and generous. Anne of Green Gables went to college and eventually married Gilbert. Heidi got Clara to walk and melted the grandfather’s frozen heart. I was sure something like that would happen to me, too, only with modern clothing and appliances.
Which, if you leave out the rich guy part and the medical miracle part and add in a whole tremendous pile of other stuff– the 1970’s, the fun and not-fun parts of adolescence, finding out that the world was more complicated than I had imagined, wonderful people, other kinds of people, conflict, resolution, the 1980’s, my twenties–is more or less what happened.
I studied art at Penn State University and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. After that I framed pictures, taught drawing and watercolor classes, worked as a cashier and at the deli of a natural foods grocery store, waitressed at a jazz club, worked for a model railroad company. I moved to Boston and worked as a graphic designer. I met my husband, Bill, and he whisked me away from Boston to Michigan where we grew Christmas trees and lived in a tiny cabin on a hillside. As time went by, we had children and the cabin grew into a house. All the while, I drew and painted. I had always loved to read, but I never really thought about writing books myself until the day in 1993 when I showed my illustration portfolio to Mrs. Ava Weiss, who was the art director of Greenwillow Books. She liked my drawings, and asked if I was a writer. I found out later that she always asked this question when reviewing portfolios, but I didn’t know that. I thought she had spotted some hidden writerly quality in me that no one else had ever noticed. I went home and worked out a little story that I had been thinking up, just for the sake of a subject for my drawings. I typed the story up and sent it to Greenwillow Books. It was called Home Lovely.
They published it. I illustrated it. And that is what I am still doing: writing stories and illustrating them. I have written and illustrated half a dozen picture books as well as three novels for older readers. In 2006, I was honored to be awarded the Newbery Medal for the novel Criss Cross.
My husband Bill makes beautiful furniture from twigs and bark. Our children are practically grown up by now. We moved a while ago from our hillside house into a small town on an inlet of Lake Michigan.
What happens next? More writing and drawing, I hope. Maybe some adventures. I’ll keep you posted.
Here is a link to a video of a 2014 interview with me, arranged, filmed, and edited by Vanessa Walstra and Heather Wood-Gramza of Kent District Library in East Grand Rapids, Michigan.