I was born on July 6, 1954 in Fayetteville, North
Carolina. My father, Bill Cowgill, was stationed
in the Army there, a member of the 82nd Airborne.
He and my mother, Patricia, were both still teenagers
when I made my fortuitous appearance. By fortuitous
I mean that I couldnt wait to get to the hospital
and was born instead in the front seat of my fathers
Ford. Waiting is still not my strong suit!
We only lived in North Carolina for a short time
and then moved to El Paso, TX and finally to Houston,
which is where all my relatives are from. Both of
my younger sisters, Patti and B.J., were born there,
and Houston is where we grew up.
In our house on Mayo Avenue, we had a garage with
unfinished sheet rock on the inside walls. On one
side of the garage was my dads work bench where
he kept all his tools. But the other side was just
a big blank wall. My mother divided it into three
sections. As soon as my sisters and I could hold
crayons, we were allowed to express ourselves on
that wall in any color or form that we wished.
If you stood back and looked at the wall, it was
like a record of my growing up. Down at the bottom
was just a lot of scribbling, but as I grew, the
drawing took on new and clearer forms. You could
tell the drawings that were done when I was happy
from the ones I did when I was sad or angry. The
garage wall was a perfect place for expression. Once
I started actually writing, on paper, I no longer
needed the wall. But I still think of it as the place
where my earliest writing took place. It was like
my first journal, a record of my feelings and experiences.
I still keep a journal. Like the garage wall, its
a place for catching all my thoughts, and sometimes
my dreams. Its often the first place that the
idea for a new story or poem occurs. Because I dont
have any particular rules about writing in my journal,
sometimes Im surprised by what shows up! I
also get ideas when I walk. I enjoy taking long leisurely
walks. They help me clear my thoughts, but they also
give me an opportunity to take a good look at the
world around me.
Most of my books and poems come directly from my
own life because thats what I know best and
feel most strongly about. Sometimes I write from
a place of joy, as in my book The Thunderherd, which
is about horses. Ive loved horses since I was
very young, and The Thunderherd was an opportunity
to express that love. Of course horses and cowboys
go together and for most of my childhood years, I
really wanted to grow up to be a cowgirl and ride
the range. This long-held dream turned into Cowboy
As much as I loved horses, however, I was afraid
of bats! Because writing helps me overcome my fears,
I decided to write a book about bats: this became
Bat Jamboree, followed by Bats on Parade, and Bats
Around the Clock. Writing those books helped me see
bats differently and even to laugh about my fears.
Now I appreciate and love bats almost as much as
Nowadays my favorite animal is cats, and Im
thrilled that my first book featuring the furry felines,
At the Alley Cats Meow, will be released in
the fall of 2002.
My family plays a large role in my writing life
too. My husband Ken is a high school English teacher
and a musician, and he has always encouraged me in
my work. We were married on a cold, icy day in January,
1979. On the day we were married, Kens grandmother
Emma told us that being married on a rainy day meant
that we would be showered with blessings, and
she was right! And two of the best blessing that
we have are our sons, Jacob and Cooper. Jacob was
born in 1982 and Cooper was born in 1984. Both of
them are musicians like their dad.
Even though I had thought of myself as a serious
writer for years, I doubt that I would ever have
written for youngsters if I had not become a mom.
It was through reading to my Jacob and Cooper that
I became reacquainted and then enchanted with childrens books.
We spent many happy hours reading together when they
were little, and we still enjoy a good book together
now that they are almost grown. Both of them are
now in college!
And watching them grow reminded me so much of my
own childhood. People often ask me if I write about
my sons and for the most part I dont. I figure
theyll have to tell their own stories. But
I do get ideas from them, and mostly those show up
in my poetry. When Cooper was very small, he loved
to put rocks in his mouth. If I didnt keep
my eyes on him, hed pop them in his mouth faster
than I could blink. This turned into my poem, The
Pebble, which is in Just People.
I used to think that a real writer had to have lots
of exciting, maybe even dangerous, adventures in
order to have something meaningful to write about.
Now I know that the best writing is about the people,
places, pets, and objects that surround us and that
we meet every day. Ive discovered that writing
about them is the absolute best way to really know
them and in the process to come to know ourselves
a little better. I now know that writing is really
a way of seeing. Id like to encourage you to
get out your old journal or start a new one and see
what shows up.