Secret identity revealed! I am indeed Gone Graphic Gal, champion of literature gone graphic. Watch me zoom in here every month. See what I have to say about the words and pictures, people and places, ideas and events in this field. Join in the conversation yourself! I would love to hear from you.
What powered my transformation, you ask? I burst upon the scene after authoring Write Your Own Graphic Novel (2009) and Graphic Content: The Culture of Comics (2010), both for tweens and teens. But my own story began many years earlier, when I seemed destined to be one of Brooklyn, New York’s many “Literary Lasses.”
I grew up on an inner-city block made famous in Betty Smith’s classic novel A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. As a high school English teacher, I recognized many funny or painful experiences captured in the pages of Bel Kaufman’s Up the Down Staircase. Later, as I completed graduate degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and became a college professor, Amanda Cross’s campus-based mystery novels were some of my favorites. They highlighted the inner workings of university life—without the murders, of course! What Color is Your Parachute? guided my next career move: a safe jump into the business world, where I worked as a corporate trainer and instructional designer. Books have always been my touchstones.
In fact, I next spent a quarter-century in another neighborhood familiar to readers world-wide. My husband, son, and I lived in Mankato, Minnesota, on the “Big Hill” of Maud Hart Lovelace’s popular Betsy-Tacy series. My son grew to young adulthood there, just as Betsy, Tacy, and Tib do in the novels. Encountering Lovelace fans on their pilgrimages to our neighborhood inspired me as I began to write. Nowadays I live in Bloomington, Minnesota—an apt name, since I always seem to be blooming with new ideas. Some of these include writing about books, travel, and other personal experiences in articles separate from my blog.
Since 1994, I have written over 100 nonfiction articles, activities, and books, many for young adults. In 2000, my piece about puzzles in Cricket magazine, “No Cross Words Allowed,” won the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Merit Award for the year’s best nonfiction article. In 2004, my article about forensic science in Odyssey magazine, “‘Facing’ Jack the Ripper: Forensics Then and Now,” was awarded a letter of merit in SCBWI’s annual competition.
Sarah Winnemucca: Scout, Activist, and Teacher, my biography of that Northern Paiute leader, was honored by the Western Writers of America as a finalist in the 2007 Spur Award competition for juvenile nonfiction. Sarah Winnemucca also represented the state of Nevada at the 2006 National Book Festival in Washington, D. C. This biography was named one of 2006’s Best Books for Children by the Bank Street College of Education.
I have written science picture books and chapter books on holidays, money, hospitals, Native American tribes, California ranchos, the Vietnam War era, world religions, ancient China, and science. My longer works for older readers include a book about the mystery of Jack the Ripper and biographies of popular author Amy Tan and scientific genius Sir Isaac Newton. I have also written the stories of the atomic bomb and pharmaceuticals, even as I delved into the culture of comics. In 2011, Graphic Content! The Culture of Comic Books was named a “Book of Note” for young adults by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association.
I enjoy writing so much that I completed a series of books to help young people write their own stories and books. In 2008, this ongoing series won a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers. In 2009, the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association named Write Your Own Graphic Novel a 2008 Young Adult Top 40 Nonfiction Title.
My personal motto is “Plan ahead, but also live ‘write now.’” Even a mild-mannered literary lass may morph into a bold, gone graphic gal!