About

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lilLaya
The Short Version

I'm the author of three award-winning picture books. When I'm not inventing new picture book ideas or revising a middle grade novel, I might be designing a logo, teaching graphic design, growing vegetables for donation, throwing clay pots on my potter's wheel or swimming in Walden Pond (not so much in winter), often while simultaneously eating chocolate (except when swimming—that makes it hard to breath under water...and when doing pottery—I might eat clay by mistake. Yuck!).

The Long Version

I was born in Rochester, New York on a snowy Friday in February, the third of five children. A few years later we loaded up a truck with all of our possessions and the seven of us piled into our station wagon to move to Ottawa, Canada where my father was from. That's where I learned to love skating down the Rideau Canal in -40° temperatures, watching the aurora from behind the Parliament Buildings, singing "Oh Canada" in French and eating beaver tails (the fried dough kind, not the animal).

My house was always a busy and creative place, with all five of us either practicing piano, dancing across the living room rug, or glueing bits of cardboard or paper into masks. When it rained we knitted or crocheted. When it snowed—and it snowed a lot—we dug caves and tunnels in the giant pile of snow at the end of our street. The summers were spent camping at Muskrat Lake, and when we got older at sleep-over camp near Algonquin Park. Being outside in nature all summer made up for being inside a good deal of winter.

In high school, I had an art teacher who inspired me to think creatively about everything I did. She taught me to look at things with a keen sense of inquiry and ask: "What if?" I spent all of high school peering through a cardboard frame at trees, architecture, faces, and then captured what I saw in my sketchbook. Our collection of drawings consisted of equal parts: people, places, and things, and they were graded. Those sketchbooks were like journals that kept track of my daily experiences recording the people I was with, the places I went and the things I did. I still have them. And I still ask: "What if?"

I followed my sister to Boston to attend the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where I studied illustration and graphic design. I took electives in glassblowing, printmaking and my favorite: poetry. I found a mentor and kindred spirit in my poetry professor who showed me how lyric the English language could be. Being creative with words was just as fun as painting, blowing glass, or etching a printing plate...and quite a bit neater.

After graduation I opened my own graphic design company. After work and on weekends I wrote poetry. When I had children, I began to write picture books, and as they grew, my love of writing novels followed. I took up pottery as a hobby which turned into a career as an artist and then as a visual arts teacher. I think I'm one of the luckiest people around to have four careers that I love and that work well together and often criss-cross (as long as I remember to wash the clay off my hands before I sit down to write at my computer!)