Me and my mom. She was reading the newspaper when I climbed up with my pile of books. Notice the books at my feet? I bet she read every one of them to me before I fell asleep.
Even though we had books overflowing on shelves in every room in our home, every Saturday was library day. I still feel a thrill when I walk into a library. All those stories, just waiting to be read!
Awards and Mentions
Kate DiCamillo’s 2012 Herman W. Block Prize for Nessa and the Horrid Witches.
Hamline University’s MFAC 2013 Critical Thesis Award for Shut Up: Power and Silence in Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction.
I was born in Illinois, but I’ve lived in eight* other states! I grew up surrounded by stories: spoken, printed, and on the stage. Maybe because I’ve been lucky enough to travel to far-away lands**, I’ve always loved the stories of other cultures and the musicality of other languages. Whenever the family traveled, our most treasured souvenirs were books.
My family knew I loved to read, but when I said I wanted to be a writer, they furrowed their eyebrows and blinked. Maybe they thought this was just another of my odd notions, like me being pretty sure I was from another planet, and that my REAL family was coming back for me any day.
Anyway, I wrote in secret for many years while working at other jobs. One of my first jobs was helping international park managers protect wildlife (I’m particularly fond of elephants). I’ve also been a weaver, a glass-sandblaster (see the HOME page for some of that work), a baker, a land-use planner, an office manager, a storyboard painter, a park designer, and a professor. I finally write stories full-time. It’s one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had. It’s also the best.
(I still think my alien family might show up someday, but they’d better have a large spaceship – I’ve got a bunch of folks who will have to come with me. And I’m not going unless they let me pilot it, at least part of the way. And when I’m not piloting? I’ll be writing about the trip.)
*Other states I’ve lived in: Arizona, California, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Washington State.
** I’ve traveled to Mexico, Canada, Italy, England, The Netherlands, Brussels, France, Kenya, Scotland, Israel, Turkey, and Uganda.
Other stuff: I’m married to Larry Day, illustrator (dayhere.com). We create stories together over breakfast. We share four children and a fabulous dog named Lucy.
Slightly off topic: About managing migratory wildlife: Park-people relationships: an international review. Landscape and Urban Planning, Vol. 19, Issue 2, 117-131 – with E. Zube.
Read about my farthest-away school visit: Uganda!
Empowerment through education!
The children in the remote Kigaale District of Uganda finally have a school! One hundred ten students, (grades K–3), are enrolled at The Deirdre Ann Academy in Buseesa. As I write this, we are planning more classrooms for the upper grades.
My great friend Em oversees the new clinic next to the school, and we traveled together from the U.S. to visit.
Until we arrived, most of the children had never read a story-book. (Can you imagine?) We brought 250 pounds of books and supplies. OH MY! What a wonderful time we all had—and now they have a good start for their library. *
We shared stories with them, and they shared stories with us. Each child made a book!
One super-stormy afternoon, we kept the children after school until the downpour let up. We pulled the second and third graders together into one classroom. Pandemonium—until we passed out books! What a spectacular time everyone had, reading aloud to classmates, trading book after book after book. When the storm finally passed, perhaps 45 minutes later, the students VERY reluctantly filed from the classroom.
Many of these children are the first in their families to attend school: it’s an honor. But as it can be difficult for parents to pay even the minimal school and uniform fees, Deirdre Ann Academy strives to help these struggling families. The motto on the backs of their uniforms: “Empowerment Through Education.”
The head teacher, Madrine, writes, “Thank you for the good time together and everything you shared, most especially stories. I want to tell you that each day changes these kids’ lives through reading these books. I watch them every day, from first graders to third graders.”
I can hardly wait for my next Buseesa school visit—Empowerment through education, indeed!
To learn more about Deirdre Ann Academy, Em’s Clinic, and the Buseesa microfinance project, check out www.bcdcmicrocredit.org , or check out the Buseesa Community Development Centre Facebook page.
*Thank you so very much to all our generous donors!
Click on the images below to see enlarged!