Ever since I was in second grade, it was my dream to be an author. As I grew up, I liked writing poetry and stories. I read an armload of books every week, sometimes sitting in a tree (like Jo March in Little Women). Many years later, I couldn't believe my dream came true. Underwear, my first book, was published in 1988. That book is still in print with the original publisher Albert Whitman!
After Underwear, I published nine more books, visited schools all over the country, and staged mysteries wth my penguin puppet Mr. Pin. I've always enjoyed mysteries, so it makes sense that six of my books are mysteries. I'd like to write more. And I still write poetry, just like a certain turtle named Wood.
I was twice lucky in that I had another job as a teacher. Every day, it seemed that my students taught me something new, just as I taught them about books, writing, and mathematics.
Besides writing and teaching, I like to sing and paint. I read as many books as I have time. When I wrote Mr. Pin, I would read Rex Stout books and watch Humphrey Bogart movies to get into the mystery mood. Mr. Pin is a bit tongue-in-cheek noir.
When I'm researching characters, I look for real emotion and details. I "shop" for an animal character in the nonfiction section of the library. And I look for a specific animal. It can't be "just" a lizard, but a fence lizard as in Toohy and Wood. Accuracy is important to suspend disbelief.
Chicago provided many settings for my Mr. Pin books, such as Wrigley Field, the Art Institute, and the Field Museum. I would often visit these places to get interesting details.
My best advice to young writers is to read as much as you can and keep a journal. Read what you write out loud to see if it "sounds" right. It will also help you find the rhythm of your own writing. Above all, have fun!