More about Joannie: ten random, unique things about my life.
1. I was born during an Indiana snowstorm on December 10. I must have been eager to get out and explore the world, because I was born a month early. I was so tiny (4-pounds, 10-ounces), my mom had to buy doll clothes for me.
2. My dad was in the Army, so we moved around a lot. He was transferred to Fort Devens in Massachusetts during my senior year in high school, so that’s how I ended up graduating from Ayer Junior-Senior High School, and became a transplanted New Englander. While growing up, I went to eight schools, and lived in twelve houses. We lived in six states, and spent a total of six and a half years in Japan. My younger brother was even born over there. The second time we went to Japan, we lived in a house in Tokyo for six months while waiting for military housing. The squat-over, Japanese-style toilet took some getting used to, but the tatami floors were fun to slide on. Unfortunately, we learned paper, shoji doors don’t hold up well to toy arrows.
3. I had an invisible horse named Lightning. He was black with a lightning bolt on his forehead. I always tied him up by our back porch so he wouldn’t run away. My imagination didn’t stop with invisible horses. One day, I found a blob of wet cement under a tree. With sticks and leaves, I turned that blob into an ant playground.
4. I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was nine. Torabella, the Freak from Mars was a childhood masterpiece, but it was lost when we moved back to the United States. I read every science fiction book I could find, and loved imagining and discovering new worlds. Many of the stories I write today add a touch of humor and fantasy to the ordinary.
5. A small gorilla at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo loved me. It scampered across its cage to follow me, and smushed its face and hand against the display window, trying to get a closer look at me. My older brother said it was because I have a monkey face. I figured it was because the gorilla had never seen a person with blond hair before—especially one wearing a fuzzy, white coat. Years later, I always look for birthday cards with gorillas or monkeys on them to send to my brother, and sign them, “your monkey-faced sister.”
6. I wanted to be an astronaut, and received a degree in geology from UMass, Amherst. Part of my studies included a summer field course in Great Britain through the University of Illinois. Not every day was devoted to mapping and studying geological formations in England, Scotland, and Wales. Our professor believed in exposing us to the local culture, so some days were spent exploring cathedrals, castles, and ancient Celtic circle huts. We saw all the famous London sights, punted on the Cam River, and stopped to get souvenir train tickets at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiligogogoch. The English translation for the name of this Welsh town is “Saint Mary’s Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave.” Here’s how to pronounce the town’s name, but it’s only the second longest place name in the world! For the curious, here’s a list of long place names, including the longest in New Zealand.
7. I was born a generation too early to become a female NASA astronaut, so I ended up staying in Massachusetts after college. Then I discovered a new passion for nursing, and received an Associate degree from Greenfield Community College. I’ve been a psychiatric nurse my entire career, helping people from ages four to ninety-four to get through tough times in their lives.
8. A friend introduced me to my future husband, who was a member of the Northfield Mountain Nordic Ski Patrol. I joined the patrol after that, and still help cross-country skiers on the trails, and in the first aid room. I also enjoy pausing on the trails to study tracks left in the snow by woodland animals, piecing together the stories they tell.
9. Although I wrote for and edited our patrol newsletter for years, my overactive imagination and quirky sense of humor are best suited for kids. Adults give me strange looks—kids laugh. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators is a great resource for anyone wanting to learn about writing and illustrating for kids. Through SCBWI I’ve met many authors, editors, and agents at conferences and in critique groups. Networking and staying connected is what lead to Melissa Kim, the Senior Editor for Children’s Books at Islandport Press, contacting me about writing B is for Berkshires.
10. Random tidbits: I like playing sports more than watching them. I was on my high school softball team, and college bowling team. I still enjoy bowling, and occasionally win tournaments. Outdoors, you’ll find me cross-country skiing, hiking, kayaking, gardening, or slicing golf balls into the woods. Favorite animals: cats and otters (both cute and playful). Favorite colors: shades of brown and peach. Favorite food: chicken and dark chocolate, but not together. I’ll also eat potatoes about any way you can cook them.