The Adventure Begins
I've loved stories and have considered myself a storyteller for as far back as my memory reaches. Books were powerful, magic passports to another time and place. Like many children, I had several imaginary worlds I could visit at will, each populated with a mix of larger-than-life characters. It was rather like choosing a novel to play in for the afternoon.
I really enjoyed the adventures that happened in my head and often conscripted neighborhood children, or my younger brother Stephen, to populate these worlds with me. It was a discovery of gigantic proportion in elementary school that if I wrote down my adventures, the same thrills would be mine when I read the stories again. That was all it took to morph the storyteller into the writer.
Not Marrying Charles
My first plays were produced when I was nine years old. Schoolmates at Wildwood Elementary in Park Forest, Illinois performed "A Cocker for the Janitor's Daughter." The next year, after we moved to Springfield, Missouri, University Heights Baptist Church staged my version of "Why the Chimes Rang." (It helped that my father was the senior pastor!) From that time, there was never a question in my mind what I wanted to do with my life. I would tell stories. In fact, when I applied to Wheaton College, they asked me to list three careers in which I could see myself. I put down "Writer." Fine. Then "Journalist." Stretching it, but possible. That third one had me stumped. Finally I put "princess"--both England's Prince Charles and Sweden's Carl Gustav were still available, and I thought I'd do as good a job as anyone. Somehow, Wheaton still let me in. And thank God you don't get everything you think you'd like!
At Wheaton, my major was English, but I was accepted in Jim Young's "Workout Group," and my life revolved around the theater. I discovered a love for acting and directing, and was even hired as the theater's Business Manager during my sophomore year.
I transferred to New York University for my last two years. Talk about a 180 degree change! But I knew I wanted to end up in New York after graduation, and figured that was one way to learn my way around. I graduated with a major in English Literature and minors in Sociology and Film History.
Old School Editorial
My first jobs out of school were in editorial book publishing, at William Morrow and Taplinger, a fabulous education with unforgettable editors--including one in a full-body cast, and a woman named Bobs. However, I realized I wanted to write books and it became increasingly more difficult to deal with a desk full of manuscripts during the day, then go home and pull out yet another. I kept my hand in theater, having five plays produced off-off Broadway, and directing as well. I also had a great time writing Spidey Super Stories for Marvel and Children's Television Workshop.
My next adventure was magazine editorial. "Welcome to the wonderful world of Park Avenue Magazine Publishing!" I once said with great enthusiasm to new hire at Flying Magazine, prompting the head of ad sales to ask if I was perhaps on drugs. But I did think it was a wonderful world, and I soon became the Features Editor of Scholastic Voice Magazine, and from there became a writer and celebrity ghost for Guideposts and Angels on Earth Magazine.
My Own Stuff
During this time, I was doing my own writing and began publishing books. I was especially drawn to biographies of heroes whose stories are so dramatic they read better than fiction. Raoul Wallenberg and Princess Kaiulani were two of the most interesting persons to walk the planet, and I loved every moment of research I did on each of them. The people I met impacted me deeply and showed me what courage and heroism really are.
I married a theater director named Robert Owens Scott, (later the Editor-in-Chief of Spirituality and Health Magazine, currently the Director of Faith Formation and Education at Trinity Wall Street) and we had many adventures together, including making an independent feature film (he wrote and directed, I produced) called Knowing Lisa that enjoyed success on the indie circuit, including winning the Silver Award at Worldfest Houston. Subsequently, I went freelance and became a full time writer. I began working with the good folks at Chicken Soup for the Soul where I edited and wrote for a number of books, while continuing on as a contributing editor for several magazines.
I also became one of the major profile biographers for the Heroes Curriculum sponsored by the Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States. The curriculum covers thirty different heroes from different times, cultures and religions. It is now in use in schools in all 50 states. Other interesting book opportunities also came my way, including America's Famous and Historic Trees with arborist Jeff Meyer, based on the PBS series of the same name.
Curves in the Road
Just as I was having the greatest time freelancing (and having two children, Jonathan and Linnéa), along came Steve Waldman, the visionary founder of the multi-faith Website, Beliefnet. He offered me the chance to be the founding Inspiration Producer of the website--and when Steve offers, it's hard to say no. Those were great years, working with some of the greatest minds in the journalism biz. From there, I became a staff writer for the Hallmark Network, which was a fun and wacky time, and by then I was ready to be a full-time writer again...
...Which is what I'm doing now. My most recent nonfiction is Lost Civilizations for Sterling (although I'm working on a very exciting new series. Check back soon for details).
And fiction! My first trilogy of thrillers were Chasing Eden, Beyond Eden and Treasure of Eden, were written with my best friend from sixth grade, B.K. Sherer, often while she was deployed with the Army, all around the world. They were published by St. Martin's Press, under the aegis of legendary editor Jennifer Enderlin. E-book editions, as well as trade paper editions, are coming this summer from Arundel Publishing. These Violent Delights, the first of the Movie Murders, will be out next spring. I'm currently working on its sequel, Graces to the Grave, as well Serpent of Eden, which takes place in between Chasing Eden and Beyond Eden.
In short, I count myself one of the most blessed people I know. I've been able to make a living doing something I've loved. I've met many of the most interesting people in the world and I've been able to write books and work for magazines and websites that make a difference in how people think and live, and that strive for excellence.
Once Oprah's website (I was keeping abreast of the competition) asked their users what their Dream Job would be. I realized I had mine.
How cool is that?