Nancy Smiler at 15 years old

As I was growing up in Minnesota, I liked ice skating, swimming, and Saturday matinee movies, but books always provided the greatest source of pleasure.

Some stories that I was especially fond of were Black BeautyHeidi,  Lassie, Come Home, and The Secret Garden. I liked books that were full of drama and emotion. I liked books that made me cry.

In the sixth grade, I read a novel called Katrinka by Helen Eggleston Haskell that I have remembered all my life. It's the story of the plight of a Russian girl long ago, whose parents were taken away by the cruel czar's soldiers. While she continues to search for them, Katrinka grows up to become a great ballerina who one day dances before the czar and throws herself at his mercy. At the story's end, she is reunited with her family. I used to imagine myself a brave peasant girl in Russia, the country of my ancestors.

The following year I wrote my first "novel." I had just come under the spell of the Nancy Drew series. My book was about a sixteen-year-old girl (how I aspired to become a glamorous teenager!) who solved a murder aboard an ocean liner on which she was a stowaway. That was my first and last mystery. I concentrated on writing stories that were closer to my heart - the kind that would make a young girl weep.
In junior high I became a newspaper reader. I was also influenced by a series of children's books about a young woman reporter. A female journalist was a rarity in those days. Sometimes she was called a "sob sister," but that didn't keep her from her work, which sounded very exciting to me. So I decided that would be the life for me when I grew up. I joined the newspaper staffs in high school and at the University of Minnesota, where I majored in journalism. Later I spent some time at newspaper and magazine writing and then editing at a publishing house in New York City. But I ventured down an entirely new path in my writing career after I married, moved to California, and became the mother of two sons. I began to write books for children. In one way I surprised myself because this was something I never planned, but in another way, perhaps it was no surprise at all, since I've always loved children and children's literature.
Writing for young readers is the most joyful and challenging work I have ever done. I write both fiction and nonfiction. Sometimes I am asked which I like best, and my answer is always, "Both." In fiction, it is rewarding to find that I can draw readers into caring about my characters and connecting with what they are experiencing and feeling. I enjoy researching and writing nonfiction because when something particularly interests me, such as an historical event or a person's biography, I have a strong urge to share the story.
Now my children are grown. I live with my husband and our retriever, Scarlett, in Beverly Hills, California. I also visit classrooms with presentations that share the joy of literature and encourage children to read and write.
For more information about me, please see Something About the Author: Facts and Pictures about Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young People, Volume 140, pages 115 -119. You may be able to find this multi volume encyclopedia at your local public library.