Since I was small, I have loved classical music and poetry. I climbed on a piano bench at four and started to play notes. I also made up my first poem then…about horses. I followed these two paths through my undergraduate years. I studied with poets Norman Dubie and Pulitzer Prize winner Donald Justice at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. I also had a piano scholarship. After 17 years of studying piano, I gave it up for writing. It was too hard to do both.
I continued writing and also translating poetry. I received a grant from Columbia University’s PEN Center to translate immigrant poetry. I then started work on an MFA in Translation. My adviser was Daniel Weissbort, who had translated Nobel Prize writers.
I also became a mother…..to Franz. I began to write children’s stories and received encouragement from a number of editors. But it was hard to do everything — be a mother, complete a degree, translate, and write. When I started my Ph.D. — first in literature, then switching to an interdisciplinary one — I stopped writing and translating.
I earned my Ph.D. in 1992, with concentrations in history, sociology, literacy and children’s literature, and international education. What an assortment! I then went to Memphis to teach at a university. I learned so much there! In 1995, I was hired at Purdue. There I taught history courses mostly in Educational Studies. Since then I have published a number of history books.
In 2000, after earning tenure, I returned to writing poetry. Yes, I love both creative and scholarly writing! I have also returned to writing for children, mostly picture books. My love of history continues here, too, in writing biographies, some based on my earlier research. The act of writing — history, poetry, or children’s stories — makes me incredibly happy!