My Writer's Journal

On becoming a writer: Part VI

January 29, 2012

I was in a dismal state in the spring after my move to Albuquerque. I had no ideas, my writing was going nowhere, until someone recommended that I get out and walk. I did--about 2 miles a day. (That was 27 years ago; I now walk 3 miles almost every morning: that's about 750 miles a year X 27 years = more than 20,000 miles.) I began to feel more optimistic. Then an editor suggested that I make a trip to South Africa, which was then in turmoil and beginning to resist apartheit. I did my research, made a few informal contacts, flew to South Africa, rented a car, and began. It was a life-changing experience. VOICES OF SOUTH AFRICA: GROWING UP IN A TROUBLED LAND was published in 1986, about the same time I took off for Northern Ireland. Another VOICES book, and then a trip to Japan, where language and culture were challenges.

It would be awhile before i got back to writing fiction, but when I did, it was with a strong tilt to historical novels. My husband and I had left Albuquerque for a new home in Texas, and a new chapter began.

On becoming a writer: Part V

January 19, 2012

My first novel for young readers was C. C. POINDEXTER, about a misfit. I felt I had a lot of experience in that department. Then I wrote EULALIA'S ISLAND based on that summer on St. Lucia, where my 13-year-old son John befriended a local kid named Eulalia. When I found the diaries my dad kept when he was in college and in love with a girl named Peg (I had his photo albums too, so I knew what she looked like), I wrote from the point of view of a young girl in the 1920s who had found her brother's diary: THE SUMMER I LEARNED ABOUT LIFE.

Meanwhile, I kept my hand in the non-fiction area, because I had found that I really liked doing research. In the late 1970's I drove across the country to a writers' colony in Taos, New Mexico. I had visited California, but I had never been in the Southwest, and the experience was life-changing. After a few months, I decided to relocate.

I bought a tiny house in Santa Fe, loaded up a U-Haul, and drove across the country to my new home. Everyone thought I was crazy, and probably I was. Nevertheless, I settled in. When I met the girl next door who showed up in the middle of the city on her horse, I started my next novel, THE LUCK OF TEXAS McCOY. (Research for that project involved learning to actually ride a horse.) I was still associated with the Institute of Children's Literature, working my way through a batch of student assignments that arrived every week . Money was always tight; one summer I got a job producing a weekly half-hour TV show called "ArtScene" that paid me the princely sum of $100 a week and left me exhausted with no time to write.

Burned out with Santa Fe after five years of struggle, I moved to Albuquerque, hoping to get freelance work or a part-time job. At one point I considered film school in Los Angeles with the goal of becoming a screen writer. But then life took another sharp curve. (To be continued)

On becoming a writer: Part IV

January 8, 2012

Time--that was always the issue, and I never had enough. Nevertheless, I managed to keep writing books for kids--one of my favorites in the early days was THE BREAD BOOK, but there were also how-to books about embroidery, carpentry, knitting and macrame, Christmas crafts, jewelry-making, even Bible stories. I was recruited by the Institute of Children's Literature to teach correspondence courses, and I wrote a monthly column on children's books and occasional articles for McCALL'S, a women's magazine popular in the '60s and '70s.

My kids were growing up, and my how-to books eventually gave way to more complex non-fiction projects. That's when I discovered that I enjoyed doing research and that I was good at it. I also discovered that I loved to travel: a summer in the Caribbean resulted in a book about coconuts; I roamed around the Eastern US, interviewing craftsmen; later I traveled to a remote Yup'ik village in Alaska and wrote about the people I met there, then back to Pennsylvania to spend time among the Amish.

Working on non-fiction taught me a lot, but still I dreamed of writing novels....

Fiction for Young Adults

Fiction for Young Adults
Dowdy Peggy White reinvents herself as a glamorous photographer, capturing memorable images during the 1930s Depression and 1940s World War II
Three gutsy girls go looking for adventure in the West in the 1920's
Anastasia and her three sisters are the privileged daughters of the richest man in the world, until their world begins to crumble.
YA Historical Fiction
What's it like to be the daughter of the most beautiful woman in the world? When Helen of Troy elopes with Paris, her daughter, Hermione, stows away on a Greek ship in search of her mother, hoping to bring her home--and perhaps to find a love of her own.
The future queen of England lives a life of privilege, but privilege comes with a steep price of isolation and loneliness--until she meets Albert.
She leaves Scotland as a child, is sent to France to marry the future king, returns to Scotland as a young woman to rule; a wild queen in a wild country.
First published in 1992, my first historical novel, has been reissued with a new cover.
Cleopatra has been chosen to be the next queen of Egypt, but she faces ruthless competition from her sisters. (Watch a video of Carolyn on this page)
The dizzying rise and horrific downfall of the last queen of France. Young Royals series
Who would not fall in love with--or at least have a mad crush on--young Will!
Marie van Goethen was a dancer in 19th century Paris and modeled for Degas's famous sculpture.
A fictionalized account of the early life of Charles Darwin, narrated by Charley himself.
Mozart's talented sister, Nannerl, struggles to achieve life she deserves--in music as well as in love.
Contemporary YA
Four characters, four big issues, four compelling stories: BECAUSE OF LISSA; THE PROBLEM WITH SIDNEY; GILLIAN'S CHOICE; THE TWO FACES OF ADAM

Quick Links

Find Authors