Long version: If you ask any of my older relatives, the ones who call me “Maddie,” they’ll tell you they always knew I’d become a children’s writer. “Remember when you wrote that story about the raccoon and the mask?” they say. Of course I remembered the raccoon story. I wrote it for Mrs. Sinha’s fifth grade class and frankly, there have been a number of times when I’ve worried that it was the height of my children’s writing career.
I went to high school and then to college and I didn’t become a children’s book writer. I became a journalist. (“I always knew you’d become a journalist,” a high school friend told me at a reunion once, “because you were the puzzle page editor in Mrs. Sinha’s fifth grade class.” You see? Fifth grade was clearly a pinnacle year.)
I wrote for newspapers for a long time, mainly for The Roanoke Times in Blacksburg, Virginia, where I grew up. In 2000 my husband wrenched me away from Southwest Virginia, which has redbud in the spring, snow in the winter, and bluegrass all year round. We moved to Boston, Mass., where it got dark by 4 o’clock and the snow stuck around until April. I didn’t want to go and I wrote a poem about it. Despite my feelings at the time, I ended up loving Boston. Still do, for reasons way beyond The Red Sox.
While I was there, I took a writing class, and then followed up with grad school in creative writing at Boston University. I joined SCBWI and a critique group, and did the same in subsequent moves to North Carolina and Northern Virginia. Wash, rinse, repeat. When I finally sold my fist book, the advance helped pay for our new furnace.
These days, I continue to work on stories for children and adults, as well as essays, articles and newsletters. We still need to repair our fireplace and get a new liner for the chimney. Which is all a long way of answering the question: Why do you write? I write because it’s pretty much the only thing I can do. I play the guitar badly. I’m not terribly organized and my math skills need improvement. I write because it keeps me sane. I write because I love telling other people’s stories as well as my own. And I write… I write for heat.