I was born in England, in the small town of Lydney, in the county of Gloucestershire, right next to the South Wales border. Soon after my fourth birthday, the Second World War began. It was a strange time to be a child. Although I lived in the countryside, a long way from the cities that were badly bombed, our lives changed in many, many ways.
My Life in England During World War II:
You can read about my wartime adventures in my first book, On the Home Front: Growing Up in Wartime England.
Ballerina, Artist . . . Teacher?
As a published writer I often meet other writers. Most of them tell me that they loved to write when they were children - diaries, stories, and plays. Although my mother's love of poetry and good literature instilled in me a love of words, being a writer was not part of my dreams. I had only one career in mind. I wanted to be a ballerina. I was good at art, too, so sometimes I thought I could be an artist if I changed my mind about ballet.
When I was 18, I realized that I was never going to be a great ballerina or great artist so I went to college and trained to be an elementary school teacher. As a teacher I have been able to teach dance and art as well as all of the other subjects that my students needed to know. After over 40 years of teaching I have never been sorry that I chose teaching as my career. And I'm still dancing!
I Set Off to See the World
When I was 24, I decided it was time to see something of the world. Until then, I had never been outside England. So I taught in Vancouver, Canada, for two years, and during the vacations, I explored the United States, the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and Hawaii. During the school year, in the evenings and on weekends, I worked as a babysitter and dressmaker. I saved enough to travel around the world for a whole year. And it was those travels that led to my becoming a writer.
When I got back to England, my next door neighbor said, "Did you have a nice time, dear?" I said, "Yes, thank you." No one else asked me where I had been for three years. And I was too shy to tell them. That's when I realized that if I were too shy to TALK about my travels, then WRITING about them was another way of talking. And I have been writing ever since. But it was 30 years before my first book was published.
A Lifetime of Traveling - and Writing
I was 28 when I met my husband - on a trip to Greece. He was a teacher, too, an American who grew up in Texas. It was the first time he'd been to Europe. We were married four months later. I said goodby to my family and settled in Los Angeles, California, and later in Malibu. A year later we spent 15 months traveling in Europe and since then we have traveled during every school holiday.
We have ridden donkeys, camels, and elephants, visited remote spots like Timbuktu, Machu Picchu, Papua New Guinea, and Antarctica, and camped with tribal people in Mali, Niger, and Ethiopia. Together we have visited over 150 countries and all seven continents. Most of my writing has related to my experiences. And when I'm not writing or teaching, I love to cycle, walk, read, spend time with friends - or dance.
Tips for Young Writers