I was a storyteller from early on. As the youngest of five children—one writer brother and three talented and strong-willed sisters—I became an aunt at eight years of age. I loved having my nieces and nephews gather around, begging Aunt Sharee to tell enthralling stories. The stories I made up had two beloved characters—an adventurous brother and sister who navigated their way out of scary situations and hilarious antics and creatively solved many dilemmas. The twosome inevitably outsmarted the adults and triumphed over their troubles. Along with my made-up stories, I read book after book after book aloud to them, watching their wide eyes glisten with wonder.
My oral tellings were enticing enough that my nieces and nephews (now all adults and parents) continued telling the stories to their children. One baby nephew's first words—upon encountering me—were, "books, books, books." He never said it just once—always three times, for good measure. "Books, books, books."
For me, it has been books, books, books, ever since.
I grew up in a small town in Iowa, where my kindred spirit librarian saved stacks of books for me to devour. I loved swimming, running, and playing outside, but there were other times when I would hide out in the stacks and read all day. I read everything I could get my hands on, from beloved Nancy Drew to Anne of Green Gables, and Jane Austen. When I first read J.D. Salinger's "For Esme' With Love and Squalor," a delicious feeling of energy washed through me and I knew that my love of reading and writing would be my salvation for a lifetime.
After two years of college in Iowa (one at a Catholic girls' school and one at a university—I liked the university better), I completed my BA at Columbia College Chicago, majoring in English and doing what I always wanted—exploring the fine arts—especially creative writing.
Early in my career, I felt like I had one foot in the business world and one foot in the creative world. I wrote in my jobs, but never felt like it was "real writing." While serving as Director of Communications for a NYSE company, I went back to graduate school to get my MFA in creative writing. I loved every minute of school and could easily have become a perennial student and stayed forever. I wrote an adult novel to complete my thesis, which I am working on to get published. Prior to moving to the Pacific Northwest, I created my own independent management consulting business. I was still doing a lot of writing and had many great jobs, but ached to plant both feet in the creative world.
When I moved to Portland, a fluky thing happened. My neighbor asked me to tutor her daughter in English. Her child was in second grade, in an immersion program, learning Mandarin most of the day, and needed more time studying English. I agreed because I love children and thought it would be fun. Soon there were many referrals and my student population grew. Even though it did not seem like work to me because I loved it, I created another business—The Tutoring Academy.
Reading and writing with children every day revived my love of children's literature. I knew I had to get back to creating my own stories and began writing a series of early chapter books featuring two unlikely animal friends. An editor I met at a writing conference is presently reading the books. I am looking forward to making my stories part of The Tutoring Academy's curriculum.
Every day I get to read and write, both—on my own—and with many inspiring children and young adults.
I live in green Portland, Oregon with my three kitties: Phoebe, haughty, gorgeous and high maintenance, Simone, the sweetest cat in the universe, and Sartre, man about town and philosopher extraordinaire. Portland is a writer's Mecca. I belong to a great critique group and am a proud member of Willamette Writers and SCBWI.