I grew up on the East Coast, although I spent a few early years in the Mid-West, enough time to remember cornfields and farm silos. Now I’m back in the Mid-West. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota and have for more than thirty years.
As a kid, I enjoyed the outdoors, hiking and camping. You can do a lot of good daydreaming hiking up a mountain.
I’ve been a reading specialist, a classroom teacher, a writer and editor for classroom curriculum materials, an educational software designer, a writer-in-residence, and an author. All these jobs demanded imagination, writing skills, and patience with the creative process.
When I was a kid, I loved to read biographies and historical fiction. I still do. That’s probably why I majored in history in college. I also have a Master’s Degree in Education and a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
When I was in sixth grade, I won a writing contest. My story was about adventures traveling west on the Oregon Trail.
In real life I’ve never followed the Oregon Trail, but I do enjoy traveling. I’ve traveled around the U.S., visited many countries, and have lived in Hong Kong, New Zealand, and England. Traveling has taught me to listen carefully to the stories people tell me. After I returned from a trip to Tanzania, I wrote a book for kids about my trip to the Serengeti Plain. When I was in Hong Kong, I wrote articles for kids about Bird Street. When I lived in England, I wrote about people who had survived the bombings during World War II. When I traveled to Japan, I wrote about Sachiko Yasui, her miraculous survival of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and her long journey toward peace. All my experiences in life and work had prepared me for writing Sachiko’s story.
I have two grown children, Aaron and Beth. As they grew up, they taught me a lot about life and love. So has my husband, Kim.
My father taught me a lot about life and love too. He died of Alzheimer’s in 1998 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. Dad never told me much about his World War II experience in the infantry, fighting through Germany. I was so startled by the full military honors given to my father at Arlington Cemetery that afterward I started researching his military history. I’ve been reading about World War II and collecting stories ever since.
As part of my research for the book Sachiko, I interviewed ninety-three-year-old World War II veteran Captain Orval Amdahl from Lanesboro, Minnesota about his experience fighting in the Pacific. Orval was on a U.S. naval ship that was first into the Nagasaki Harbor after Japan surrendered. After the interview, Orval showed me a Japanese sword he had brought back home as a war “souvenir.” He told me he had been oiling the sword for 67 years waiting to find a way to return the sword to its rightful owners. Luckily, the sword still had a “surrender” tag hanging from its scabbard with the family’s address written on it in clear Japanese characters. It turned out the owner’s family lived in Nagasaki. With the help of the Saint Paul-Nagasaki Sister City Committees, Orval Amdahl was able to return the sword to the Motomura family, “in peace, with honor,” just as he had wanted—all because of Sachiko’s story.
What have I learned about stories? I believe personal stories, large and small, have the power to make a difference. Stories that find their way to our hearts can give us strength and help us to find peace in ourselves and in the world.