Would you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer? How did you develop your skills?Read the complete interview.
I wrote as a child--poems, letters, scrapbook entries, a diary, stories--and during my college years I began to develop the strong sense of vocation that is with me still. I spent several years completing an MFA in poetry at University of Massachusetts Amherst in the late 1970s and early 80s, taking literature courses that had me reading writers from A.R. Ammons and Gwendolyn Brooks to Tarjei Vesaas and Virginia Woolf.
I spent many hours in workshops with a lively group of mentors and young writers. I remember going with friends to hear readings by Tomas Tranströmer, Maya Angelou, and Louise Glück. It was a rich, challenging time.
I read children's literature during those years and did some writing for children, but I didn't have any context for that work. That changed when I moved back to Minnesota. I began teaching with COMPAS Writers and Artists in the Schools in 1983, the same year that my first child was born. I was reading and writing with children in elementary schools, and I was reading and writing in the midst of family life. That set me on the path to writing for children.