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Me at 8
Me, drawn by my daughter at 8
I was born in Brooklyn but slipped over the border and grew up in Queens. I remember telling my mother when I was about six that I had a narrator in my head who described things as I was doing them. Instead of recommending a psychiatrist, she suggested that maybe I would be a writer when I grew up.
I still remember my tiny-fisted denunciation of this idea. Writers were holy people. They wrote my favorite books, like You Will Go to the Moon and Freddy the Detective. The idea of aspiring to that exalted a profession was just crazy.
Years later I was still unable to wrap my mind around this possibility. I went to college to become a journalist (safer, I thought) but changed my major to “how can this degree possibly help you find a job” English because I loved to read and talk about books. After graduation I sampled all those English-majorish jobs– taught high school for a year, worked in advertising, was the world’s worst temporary employee, then started as an editorial assistant in a big New York publishing house. The minute I walked into the lobby I felt I had found a home. I was surrounded by people who lived for books. I wrote back cover copy and I read all kinds of submissions. It was while reading those manuscripts that I first thought: “Well, I’m not as good as THIS one, but I can’t possibly be as bad as THAT one.” The writing gods tumbled to earth and became people just telling a story, the best way they could.
And so, I started to write. I worked on a story every night when I got home from work. Within a year I had sold it, left publishing, and become a full-time writer.
I wrote under pseudonyms for many years and for many different publishers. The first book for teenagers I put my own name on, WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, won the National Book Award. Now I continue to write under Jude Watson for middle-grade readers, and Judy Blundell for young adults.
As an adult I’ve been a bit of a tumbleweed—I’ve lived in California (twice), New York City, Florida, Long Island, Washington State, Delaware, and Westchester County NY. Now I’ve settled in a small village called Stony Brook on Long Island, about sixty miles east of Manhattan. I live near the harbor, and I can hear seagulls and the blast of the ferry horn while I write.
I live with my husband and daughter in a cottage that wants to be a house. My office is in a narrow room that overlooks a bush alive with birds. I can stretch out my hands and touch everything I need: my computer, books, notebooks, my colored pencils, and the dictionary I still have from my first editorial job. When I’m writing at my desk, I feel like I’m at the center of everything– “at the still point of the turning world,” as the poet* said.