When I was 10, I wanted to be a paleontologist. But I never explored the possibility, nor was I encouraged in it. After all, in rural Ohio in the 40s, educated girls could be teachers or nurses. Maybe. Period. In fact, if it hadn't been for Sputnik, no one would have thought to encourage me in any science at all.
I earned a BS in zoology (Bowling Green State University) and an MS in desert ecology (Arizona State University; that's the one in Tempe). At ASU I met and in 1963 married the world's greatest man. We raised two daughters who turned out pretty darn good. While Bill served as ranger and naturalist in the National Park Service, I enjoyed a career of freelance writing. It is still my passion.
Now we live in Port Townsend, Washington (look for the dot on the very northeast tippy-tip of the Olympic Peninsula), not far from the girls.
In between those milestones, any number of adventures have informed my writing:
--Never having been west of Chicago as yet, I leased a horse south of Alpine, Texas and spent three weeks in the Big Bend backcountry. The series I'm working on now takes place in the Big Bend; the memories are still that strong.
--Researching book series, I travelled around Australia and Ireland alone, taking notes and pictures. Do you know that if you walk into a library in formal business attire, the whole world is yours? They just go all out for you. And you don't want to know what my blood pressure was as I got into a rental in Ireland and drove away on the WRONG side of the road, SITTING ON WHAT OUGHT TO BE THE PASSENGER SIDE, for pity sake.
--I took a job as a wrangler at a kids' camp near Yosemite, each day endeavoring to keep 40 active youngsters on their horses for the duration of a 45-minute ride. I still have the saddle I bought in 1955 from Sears, Roebuck.
--I have spent most of my sailing time in the galley of a schooner, cooking for the crew. The hard part? They're strictly vegetarian and my motto is, "Vegetables are not food. Vegetables are what food eats".
--At the age of 58, I volunteered at the University of Oklahoma, building exhibits for the Ancient Life gallery in their new Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, working closely with paleontologists. One thing led to another. I completed my existing writing contracts and turned to study full time. Bill, bless him, helped me through it; he did wonderful things, like cooking and laundering. I earned my PhD in Paleontology in 2005, fulfilling that 50-year-old dream.
I am a paleontologist.
Musings on Writing
|"Educating the public" is the big buzzword at the moment. I'm getting kind of tired of it. Doggone it, if you're going to write, any writing, but especially for kids, that sort of thing should be constantly incorporated into all your work, carefully hidden from direct view. The public is starting to resist getting educated, and I don't blame them. Stealth tactics are in order. What were the public mores in the past? How did people get by without velcro? Where were political boundaries drawn? What were the disasters, the financial conditions, the joys? People are the same, but circumstances vary drastically.
In order for the stealth part to work, of course, the story has to grip the reader's interest in the face of TV, movies on demand, video games and Wii, hanging out with friends, texting, Facebooking...and by the time this goes live, there will be even more new distractions. I am convinced also that good work requires strong characters to provide both positive and negative role models (for adults, too. Yes).
I guess a summary of my philosophy would be, "Be an entertaining yet sneaky teacher."