Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.

 

I’ve always loved to read. Books, magazines, the backs of cereal boxes – you name it. Reading lets me step into someone else’s shoes for a time, meet new friends, even explore worlds very different from my own.

 

I love writing for many of the same reasons. And it’s fun, but not easy. Like mastering the saxophone or kicking field goals, writing takes practice, practice, and more practice - or as I prefer to think of it, unlimited do-overs!

My brother, Greg, always there to support me.

Hey, I said we fished. I didn't say I liked it.

Groovy, baby.

I grew up in a small town in eastern Iowa, only fifteen miles from where I now live. As a child, I read everything I could get my hands on, from Black Beauty and Nancy Drew to Archie comics and MAD magazines. I played the flute and the piano and sang in church and school choirs. My pets included a lime green parakeet named Saturday with faulty depth perception (he was always flying into walls) and a series of unfortunate cats who met tragic and untimely ends (you don't want to know).

Other than traumatic cat accidents, I had a disgustingly-happy childhood (supposedly a disadvantage for a writer - oh, well). I lived less than a block from my elementary school and was lucky enough that my best friend lived right next door and the ice cream truck patrolled our street with alarming regularity. I played softball every sweltering summer and remember many winter days when my woolen scarf froze to my face because I was too busy lobbing the heaviest possible snowbombs at the neighborhood boys' fort to remember to wipe my nose.

 

My family took frequent camping/fishing trips throughout the year and long car vacations every summer. At night on these trips, snuggled into my sleeping bag in a dark, musty-smelling tent (or later, a trailer with serious new-car smell), I told stories about wild animals and adventurous children. I made them up as I went along, chattering away until my family threatened to put me out with the wild animals. But I couldn't help myself. The stories were in me, somehow, pushing to get out. As soon as I could sound out words, I wrote one of them down. It was called "The Wind" - a mini-mystery starring a nervous owl and ending with a punchline that my first-grade self must have thought a real knee slapper.

 

I was a good reader and a motormouth, and once I got glasses (until third grade, I thought trees were tall green blobs, much like giant Tootsie Roll Pops), watch out! Highway signs and shouting billboards were too tempting to pass in silence. On trips, I read each one aloud to my parents and older brother. Each one. This may explain why my brother spent long hours scooted as far from me as possible, faking sleep for a hundred miles at a time.

Somewhere along the line, though, I stopped letting the stories out. None of my friends made up stories, so they must be dumb (the stories, not my friends). I pushed them away and forgot about them for thirty years.

It wasn't until I began reading books to my own children that a small voice inside me whispered, "Think you could do this?" I ignored it for a few years, but it wouldn't shut up. Instead, it grew louder, more insistent, until it jerked me awake one morning at three a.m. with a funny idea for a kids' book that had me stumbling through the dark house for paper and a pen. That prompted me to sign up for a writing class at a local community college (and to keep a pen and paper on my nightstand). Once I blew the dust off my imagination and began making up stories, I felt strangely happy, as though I'd been gone a long time and had finally come home.

 

I live on a farm. It's a quiet place (most of the time) on a dusty gravel road, where green walls of rustling corn surround our yard each summer. My husband and I have two  sons and a daughter, all in their twenties. We raise corn, soybeans, and hundreds of pigs. A dozen cats hang around the back door each evening, waiting for me to slip out with leftovers (a dangerous time to go barefoot, believe me!).

 

My favorite season is autumn, when I get to drive a huge, complicated tractor (dummy-proofed just for me, with labels on its dozens of knobs and levers - Auger speed, Throttle, DON'T TOUCH THIS, JILL!) through crackling fields and help with the harvest under a blue blue sky. I adore the silky skin of baby pigs and the velvety fluff of new kittens. I still read everything I can get my hands on, but these days I'm only a motormouth on paper (and computer screen).

And every day I wake up feeling blessed, knowing how lucky I am to spend part of each day doing what I love and loving what I do - writing for kids.

©2014 Jill Esbaum