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21 Random Facts About Me

!. My first dog was an Old English Sheepdog puppy named Shakespeare.

2. When I was little, I thought red velvet chairs were the height of luxury and good taste.

3. My mother was an actress, a very good one. We got to be on a TV show with her once when I was about seven.

4. My favorite animals as a child were elephants and giraffes. Now I can't choose -- too many!

5. I prefer to walk in the rain without an umbrella.

6. Some of my favorite, favorite books to re-read as a child were A Little Princess, The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, Magic or Not?, The Twenty-One Balloons, The Little Prince, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Borrowers, The Enchanted Castle, Little Women, and Charlotte's Web.

7. I love dark chocolate -- 54%-64% cocoa content is the best. Yum.

8. One of my favorite things in life is to stand at the front of a fast-moving boat with the sun and a fresh wind on my face.

9. I look surprisingly good in a pink wig.

10. I have a whole bouquet of wonderful step-parents: Carol and her husband, Bill; Kevin and his wife, Mary, in addition to my original parents, my Dad and Mom.

11. I once rode in a hot-air balloon in Africa, and saw hippos running beneath me on the ground. Hippos are fast on land!

12. Paisley patterns and A-line skirts, especially denim ones, depress me.

13. I like to nibble notches in the corners of Wheat Thins, so that there are four little towers at the edges. This is very hard to do without breaking off the corner.

14. My father is a magician and plays the hurdy-gurdy.

15. My favorite smell in the world is the pine-tree-scented air in San Francisco in Golden Gate Park and along the coast.

16. San Francisco also wins the favorite sound award: foghorns in the morning when I'm waking up and going to sleep. Comforting, as though something huge is watching over the world while I dream.

17. I love to laugh. Most things strike me funny.

18. I'd tell you my lucky number, but telling would be unlucky.

19. I will tell you my favorite color: blue. Beautiful, rich blues, slate blues, French blues, cornflower blues, sea-glass blues. . . Ahh.

20. My favorite grades in elementary school were 4th and 6th, because I had amazing teachers and great best friends.

21. I love words, especially the ones that sound like blown glass or have chewy textures.

22. I think if we let young kids rule the world we'd have much more tolerance and joy, but way too many sugary snacks that make our tongues blue.

(P.S. I gave you an extra random fact because I love surprises.)

My Life -- The Novel

Yep, pretty funny looking. But I'd had only three days to get ready for my close-up.

When the doctor delivered me, I was 6 lbs, 4 oz, a smallish bundle. Nevertheless, I was a solid little thing. "So round, so firm, so fully packed," the doctor proclaimed, sealing my fate.

Years 0-5 were spent in Phoenix, Arizona, where everyone has a pool because the summers get so hot, and I had my first pet, an Old English Sheepdog puppy named Shakespeare. We called him Shakesy, and he was my best friend. My peak of cuteness was at age 3.

Thus begins a lifelong love of sweets.

Years 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 were spent in San Francisco. Even though it was just a year of my life, I remember it so vividly! My mother was an actress, and she performed with the American Conservatory Theatre. My big sister was a wood nymph in their production of The Tempest, and I sat through 25 productions of the play without falling asleep. No wonder I grew up loving words!

Ah, the joys of stripey shirts and sixth grade friends. And 70s hair.

Years 6 1/2 - 11 1/2, we were back in Arizona, this time in Scottsdale. Back then, it was a podunk little town with no traffic, barely any houses, and crystal-clear blue skies. My sister and I and our best friends, Libby and Steven Call, spent hours roaming around the desert hills and mountains that were our backyard. We saw rattlesnakes, scorpions, and gila monsters. Once, I made the mistake of trying to rearrange a cactus garden with my bare hands, and had to go to a neighbor doctor's house to have him pry out the jumping cactus from my fingers. Ouch!

Years 11 1/2-18: Los Angeles, baby! My mom and dad parted ways when I was eleven, and my mom took my sister and me to L.A. We felt very glamorous living in a bustling city after so many years in the humble (but beautiful) desert, especially when we went back to visit my cousins in Indiana. Their friends all thought my beautiful mom was a movie star! Though she wasn't ever famous, she actually managed to get a lot of work in theatre, television, and even movies. (Can you tell I'm proud of her?) We also got to see my dad a lot, spending lots of weekends and holidays and summers with him in Arizona and traveling around, which is still his favorite hobby.

Somewhere in Africa around age 17.

Ages 18-22. Ooh, I'm getting old now, aren't I? I went to college at UC Berkeley, which I absolutely LOVED. I was an English Literature major, and had the most amazing professors of Chaucer and Shakespeare and poetry writing and American Novels and Dante. For me, college was full of ideas and great coffee and anti-apartheid protests and poetry readings and romance and life-changing books.

Ages 22-24. After graduating from UC Berkeley, I went back to Los Angeles to be near my stepdad, Kevin, because my mother had passed away. It was a way of being closer to her memory while we were all so sad. I was very lucky, because my wonderful grandparents spent a whole month with me in my new apartment. I hope I appreciated them as much as they deserved! They were amazing people, and my grandmother was a fantastic writer. She wrote funny, detailed letters and a memory book I cherish. In another life, she might have been a professional writer.

In L.A., I got a job working for a creative writer/producer in Hollywood. She wrote both movie and television scripts. Along the way, I got to read a LOT of scripts people were hoping our company would buy. It was great training for seeing what did and didn't work in storytelling.

Then I decided I didn't want to spend my time working in television production, and I went to Europe for three months of traveling on my own. I cried on the way to the airport, because I got nervous about the trip, but that was the worst moment. After that, my travels were filled with adventures and meeting people and making friends and climbing mountains and exploring cities and learning about other cultures. Travel is life-changing. I recommend it.

It is also filled with misadventures, such as filling your contact lens holder with shampoo by mistake in the dark, and getting on the wrong train, and accidentally throwing a navy-blue tank top into the laundry with all your white clothes so that your entire wardrobe turns pale blue, and sitting next to smelly strangers on a bus, and having your camera stolen from UNDERNEATH YOUR SLEEPING HEAD on a train, and being passed on an Alpine hike by a fit great-grandmother in her 70s, and meeting people who become lifelong friends. The good and bad all blend into a stew of memories you carry with you forever.

I used to love the walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to get to work.

Ages 24+ When your work life begins, you tend to have many, many jobs that provide you with funny/awful stories. After the TV work, and before I opened my bookstore in 1996, I had the following jobs: Editorial Director for a small press in San Francisco, hostess at a cafe in Oakland, Creative Director at a book packaging company in New York City, Assistant Teacher for first- and second-graders, Head Librarian at a NYC pre-K-8 school.

I got a Master's degree from a phenomenal school called the Bank Street College of Education.

When I moved to Vermont in 1996, I planned to continue teaching, but then a "For Lease" sign appeared on this little building in our small town, and I just had a feeling that I should rent it and -- open a bookstore!

My best friend and partner, Josie Leavitt, and I opened the store in 10 weeks, with 6,500 books and a lot of optimism. Now, many years later, we have more than 40,000 books in the store, and we're still optimistic.

Toot and Puddle greet early visitors at the Flying Pig.
We moved to our new store location in Shelburne, VT, in 2006

Josie is also a hilarious stand-up comic, performing and teaching classes at Burlington's Flynn Theater, and until December 2005 she was also the Rescue Chief of our small town.

Not to be outdone in the overextended category, I signed up for another Master's degree, this one in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the magnificent Vermont College. I also started a community theater for children and adults in our town with my good friend, an amazing artist named Sumru Tekin.

For many years, our group, the Charlotte Town Players, put on two shows a year: one in summer for a cast of adults and kids -- about 52 of them -- and one in winter, just for adults. The shows raised money for an organization we started to get new books into the hands of children and families who might not otherwise be able to afford them. Although the theatre company is on hold at the moment (it took about three months out of each year, and my bookstore started to feel that), the Charlotte Book Shelf continues to support Vermont kids and families by donating funds and books to several Vermont organizations.

The beautiful barn where we sometimes hold our summer theatre productions.

Finally, I am really lucky to have an incredible family. My two young nephews, Will and Jake, are funny and wonderful, and inspire almost as many books as my dogs. Look for photos of our motley crew as I update the website.