Everything You Need to Know About Me
(Well, Not Really!)
It's hard to write about myself, especially since I don't think I've had the most exciting life. So I’ll keep this simple. Real simple.
I was born and raised in New York City, in the borough of the Bronx. A lot of people ask me what it was like growing up in the Bronx, so I’ll say it was probably just like growing up in any other inner city. I went to public school, and when I didn’t have dancing school or piano lessons, I spent my free time jumping double dutch on the sidewalk and riding my bike up and down the block with my friends. Parking lots were our playgrounds and fire hydrants were our sprinklers on hot, sticky summer days. It was great!
I always say I started writing novels in second grade. Of course, back then my novels were just loose-leaf paper stapled together, but the stories were mine and I was proud of them. I loved the feeling of putting CHAPTER ONE on top of the first page and writing until there was a satisfying ending, or until one of my teachers caught me writing instead of paying attention in class and confiscated my book. I lost more novels that way!
By seventh grade, writing brought me a little bit of “fame.” My novels-in-progress would get passed around the class — behind the teacher’s back, of course — and by the end of the day my friends would beg me to write more. (Well, maybe they didn’t actually beg, but that’s how I choose to remember it!)
While I was in college, I had many jobs: I sold jewelry at a department store, worked at a bookstore, and taught creative writing and video production to kids and teens. My favorite job at that time was teaching memoir writing to senior citizens. I loved hearing all about their lives: growing up in the Bronx back in the 30s and 40s, their first loves, and all about how they had to fight to overcome racial discrimination back then. They had real powerful stories to write.
After I graduated from college in 1996, I started working with teenagers and families in crisis. A lot of the teens I worked with were homeless, involved with gangs, or addicted to drugs. Some were victims of child abuse and neglect. It was a tough job, but I was always impressed by the teens’ survival skills.
It was probably that job that inspired me to write TYRELL. I wanted to give readers a realistic portrayal of what it’s like to grow up in hard circumstances, especially when you have only yourself to count on. I began writing TYRELL while in the creative writing MFA program at The New School. I graduated in 2005, andTYRELL was published in 2006.
My second book, KENDRA, was published in 2008. For this novel I wanted to write about a girl trying to understand herself and her very complicated family, while experiencing her first relationship. I wanted to explore the truth of some relationships, one where you're not really sure what's going on until you've gone too far.
My third novel, BRONXWOOD, is the sequel to TYRELL. I really loved getting back into Tyrell's head and seeing the world through his eyes again. And, of course, I really wanted to know what happened next in Tyrell's life!
My first book for middle-grade readers, KINDA LIKE BROTHERS, is in stores now!
I live in the Bronx, working as a full-time writer and a part-time writing teacher. In my free time, I volunteer for the NAACP ACT-SO program where I mentor teen writers.
My hobbies include reading (of course), playing piano, (very) amateur filmmaking, and traveling. Some of my favorite places (so far) are France, Italy, Bermuda, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, England, and Spain! And when I'm procrastinating from writing, you can find me wasting time on Facebook and Twitter.