I grew up bilingual on the border of San Diego and Mexico. Early on I learned to catch the crest of a wave. My friends and I spent our summer days in the ocean or exploring cactus-filled canyons above the beach or hiding out in the abandoned World War II pillboxes up the hill from my house. California wasn’t always a chain of super highways and malls! Despite playing hooky at the beach, I was a good student and I liked writing. My English teacher, Ms. Zeno, always devised new projects to maintain our interest in writing. We kept a poetry journal and an illustrated story log. I wrote for hours on the cliffs overlooking the waves, and I knew I wanted to be a writer.
This was Southern California and I went to school with Mexican-American kids who had recently immigrated to the U.S. My best friend’s mother, Flora Moeno, taught me Spanish and I have loved hispanic culture all my life. Because of Flora, I studied Spanish in college, became a professor of bilingual education, a school principal, and I wrote teacher guides, educational texts and curricula. Throughout it all, I never lost my desire to write fiction.
Kira and the Immigrant Thief is my first novel for young adults. Fish-out-of-water Kira McIness is sent to Madrid to spend the school year, struggles to solve a mysterious crime and discovers who she is. Madrid, Spain is where I spend most of my time these days too if I’m not in Western Washington at the house in the mountains my husband and I built with our own hands and the help of our good friends. I also write picture books and Jack Rabbit in the Painted Desert is my latest. It is about a tenacious rabbit who immigrates to the desert, finds he isn’t welcome and what he does to win friends changes his destiny.
–A Word About Chance: The purple statue you see at the top of the page is Dionysis. I stumbled upon him in Retiro Park the day Kira was born. He is the Greek god of individual thought and freedom from self- consciousness. Dionysis was a patron of the arts in ancient Greece, especially the theater in which storytelling played a major role. So, in the middle of Madrid amid acres of parkland, was it chance that brought us together? After such an auspicious meeting it is only appropriate that he sit in a place of honor on my page.