Why I Write

I was born in the days before television and ipods. I think it was a lucky thing because my family were readers.  We would take the bus to the Detroit Public Library once a week and stock up on books.  By the time I started school I was really into storytelling.  For example, I told my first grade teacher that I had triplets at home.  One day my big brother who was already in high school, brought my lunch to school because I had forgotten it.  The teacher asked my brother how the triplets were doing.  That was when my gift for storytelling was discovered by my teacher and family.  Of course I was  embarrassed when I overheard the teachers laughing about my "creative imagination." But it didn't stop me. However I have learned to use my imagination in more acceptable ways.

At Roosevelt Elementary School, we had two libraries with trained librarians who talked to us about good books to read and let us check out books to take home.  I was thrilled when I graduated to chapter books in third grade.  Our sixth grade class was in charge of a school newspaper and I got to be the editor-in-chief.  Before that I had enjoyed writing but that was my first official job as a writer.  In high school I was also on the school newspaper staff and when I was in my early twenties and spent a year in Holland,  I  wrote for a magazine. 
But by then I was a school librarian and then a children's librarian in a public library.  When my own children were young I read to them everyday.  By the time they were in elementary school, in early 1979,  I opened the children's bookstore Adventures For Kids, in Ventura, California. 

I had never been in a "children's only" bookshop but somehow it seemed to be the right thing for me  – a store devoted to bringing good books into the lives of families. 

I always thought it was important to own books.  I still have some of the books my parents gave me.  There is a luxurious feeling that a brand new book can be read leisurely, with no deadline for returning it; that it could be put on a shelf to be read again.  Most things are outgrown or wear out, but a book like Charlotte's Web…well no one could ever be too big or too old for something as wonderful as that!

All the years I was reading I never thought of myself as a "writer" although in the years I owned the bookstore I was writing a newsletter of book reviews.

Children's book ideas were always in the back of my mind but I was too busy reading other people's books to write my own.  Even so, I managed to write Up, Up, Up! It's Apple Picking Time, and get it published in 2003.  It was a book I felt compelled to write because I  felt there was a need for a book about apple picking in a California setting, one that reflected my own children's experiences on their uncle's apple ranch in San Luis Obispo.  The lovely thing about that book is that it speaks to the universal experience of a family sharing the task of picking, selling and enjoying apples, even in Australia where my husband, Perry, and I often visit.

It was in Australia, while on leave from the bookshop, in 2002, that I was able to write Family Lullaby. It was a great luxury to have time to write and I knew that once I sold the bookshop, I would devote myself to writing full time.  Even when I am swimming or walking which I try to do almost every day, I am thinking about the books I am writing. 

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Adventures For Kids Bookstore

Simms Taback & Jody Shapiro
Photo: Joan B. Graham