Growing Up


I grew up in a big white house on a corner near Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I have six--yes, six!--sisters. One of them, Judy, is my identical twin.

Can you guess which one is me? Even my mother is not sure.

My sisters and I sang together while we were growing up, especially while we did the dishes. When I was in college, some of us sang in a band. We called ourselves The Early Sisters. We had tons of fun.

The Early Sisters: Peggy, Judy, JoAnn, and Eileen

Becoming a Writer


I've always enjoyed writing, too. My mother saved a story I wrote in second grade about how much I loved walking our neighbor's dog, Zsa Zsa. I know my imagination was working when I wrote that story because that dog was mean!

I worked at lots of different jobs while I was growing up. Many of them involved writing of one kind or another. For many years, I wrote software manuals. After I got married and our kids were born, I started reading to them. That's when I realized how much I loved children's books. I found a poem I had written in college twenty years earlier. I sent it to many publishers, and after several revisions, one of them accepted it. That poem became Cats on Judy, my first published book.

I decided I needed to know more about writing, so I took every class I could find. I joined the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I went back to school for a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults degree from Vermont College. Mostly, I just kept writing.

I've written poetry, picture books, nonfiction books for beginning readers, a couple of novels, and some short stories for young adults. For two years, I worked as an editor for a publisher of educational books for children. Now I am a freelance writer again. I visit schools to help students write poetry. I also give talks for adult writers. And I keep writing as much as I can.

Finding Ideas


I find some of my best ideas when I go for walks. This bench is one of my favorite places. When I walk to the lake, I often stop here and think.

How I Write


I always carry a little notebook in my pocket so I can write down any ideas that bump into me. Sometimes I gather those little slips of paper together to create a poem or a story. Sometimes just one word or phrase sparks a new writing project. The beginning of something new is always the most exciting part for me. Then I try to buckle down and revise and revise. And revise again.

I always work on paper until my draft is pretty solid. I write in spiral notebooks or on legal pads at my desk. I only go to the computer when I'm getting close to a final version.

I really like working in my pajamas!

Some of My Favorite Books


Picture Books
Bubble Trouble and 17 Kings and 42 Elephants by Margaret Mahy
Brave Potatoes by Toby Speed
Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller
One Is a Snail, Ten Is a Crab: A Counting by Feet Book by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre
One Little Mouse by Dori Chaconas
Don't Need Friends and Tessa's Tip-Tapping Toes by Carolyn Crimi
Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse
Sheep in a Jeep and the other sheep books by Nancy Shaw
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann
Mable Dancing by Amy Hest

Books for Beginning Readers
Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley
Nate the Great by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Middle Grade & Young Adult
The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean
Gina.Jamie.Father.Bear by George Ella Lyon
Trash by Sharon Darrow
Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles
The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley
Black Juice and Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan
The Gift Moves by Steve Lyon
A Great and Terrible Beauty and Rebel Angels by Libba Bray
Listening at the Gate by Betsy James
Mind Games by Jeanne Marie Grunwell
Silk Umbrellas by Carolyn Marsden
Spinning Through the Universe: A Novel in Poems from Room 214 and other novels in verse by Helen Frost
Yankee Girl by Mary Ann Rodman
Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr

Books I Remember from When I Was Growing Up


The Color Kittens by Margaret Wise Brown
Angelo the Naughty One by Helen Garrett
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
Curious George by H. A. Rey
Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Grimm's Fairy Tales
anything about King Arthur & the knights of the round table
the Honey Bunch series by Helen Louise Thorndyke
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Sherlock Holmes mysteries by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
short stories by Edgar Allen Poe
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Here I am on the Buffalo River!


All content on this site copyright © 2015 by JoAnn Early Macken except as otherwise noted.
Please do not copy without permission.