The Short Version:
Write books, play outside, read a lot, stay curious.
I earned a B.A. in English with an emphasis on Creative Writing from the Western Michigan University College of Arts and Sciences in 1998.
Some of my favorite authors:
The Long Version:
I was born in 1975 and grew up in Paw Paw, Michigan. I went to school at Cedar Street Elementary, Paw Paw Middle School, and Paw Paw High School, and had fantastic teachers in every grade and thank them for their energy and patience.
Mrs. Swanson’s 7th grade English class is where I really got into writing. She let us choose between keeping a journal and starting a fictional story that we would add to as the semester progressed. My life as a 7th grader seemed pretty dull, so I chose to write about a man getting ambushed by assassins, whom he quickly defeats and tortures to find out why they’re trying to kill him. Today, that would likely get me sent to Greenland.
I graduated in 1993 and headed to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University, where I started with a major in Criminal Justice. I quickly realized the fictional version of crime is much more fun (and safe) than the actual, so I switched to English with an emphasis on creative writing and started writing short stories and what might be considered poems.
I worked construction during my college summers and earned a BA in 1998. I got a job as an Associate Editor for a trade journal focused on the engraving industry (Huh?) and left that after 6 months to start a seasonal haunted attraction with a group of friends (Ah, this makes much more sense.). In 2000 I landed a contract technical writing job at a large pharmaceutical company and spent my days in the basement of a drug manufacturing plant. I had a creative outlet with the haunted attraction, which we did on and off for five years and had way too much fun, but something was missing. Something was off.
So in 2004 I quit the technical writing job to design and build haunted attractions full time in Tampa, Florida—a dream career—which lasted a little bit longer than the time it takes to drive from Michigan to Florida.
Apparently, making a fun hobby into a job turns it into…a job.
So it was back to Michigan and another contract gig doing technical writing and, heck, why not, I applied to the FBI. Something was still missing, and I thought living out the adventures in my head would fill that hole. I passed the FBI’s first phase and was invited to the second when I heard from Sheila, a great friend since elementary school I’d kept in touch with. She was an editor at Scholastic and told me they were inviting first-time authors to submit samples for a new project they were doing.
I’d never written for children or teens before and had spent most of my writing time on haunted attraction themes and characters, but she convinced me it was worth a try. I’m eternally grateful she did, as that project became CRIME FILES: FOUR-MINUTE FORENSIC MYSTERIES.
When I got the contract for those books, I also got a taste of what it’s like to write for a living and realized it was what I was supposed to be doing all along, what was missing. Everything else was just a hobby.