My life has been a wonderful adventure that has included many years of education, raising a family, growing gardens, enjoying outdoor activities, and lots of travel, as well as writing.
I’ve been enjoying my writing career for more than 35 years. While I’ve focused mostly on writing nonfiction books for children, I’ve also written in many other genres including travel articles and gardening books for adults.
In addition to being an author, I love to share what I’ve learned about writing with children, fellow writers, and the public. I’ve been a featured speaker at many conferences and schools, and I’ve taught nuts and bolts workshops on writing for children, as well as sessions on freeing the creative spirit from the restraints of the internal critic. I also work as a consultant with less experienced writers, helping them hone their work to make it more publishable.
I was born in 1940 in Rochester, MN, where my father was a physician at the Mayo Clinic. We moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was nine years old, and I grew up in Marin County. From the beginning, I loved animals and the out of doors, where I spent as much time exploring the woods and fields as possible. The walls of my bedroom were lines with terrariums and aquariums containing my pet snakes, frogs, lizards, and tropical fish.
Studying living things was natural for me, and I received a bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences from Stanford University (1962) and a M.A. (1965) and PhD. (1968) in Zoology from the University of California, Berkeley. While in graduate school, I married fellow student Greg Patent. We had two sons, David and Jason, both now grown and married, and five grandchildren.
For the first few years after graduate school I worked as a part-time scientist–two years of post-doctoral work (Sinai Hospital, Detroit, MI, and Stazzione Zoologica, Naples, Italy).
When my husband got a university faculty job in North Carolina, I decided to try my hand at writing nature books for children. I wanted to be able to stay home and raise my children, but I also wanted to exercise my mind and use my knowledge and training to share my love of the natural world with others.
I began writing for children in 1972 and have had books published by more than a dozen publishers. In addition to my science and nature books for children, I have coauthored two gardening books for adults, one of which was revised and reissued in 1997. I have more than 140 published books to date.
I have also written about writing, nature, and travel for many magazines, including Arizoo, Camas, The Horn Book, The Writer, Cricket, Spider, Storyworks, Falcon, and Wild Outdoor World magazines and for The Missoulian newspaper. My photographs have appeared in National Gardening Magazine, The Missoulian, and in many of my children’s books. I enjoy teaching about writing, especially helping people free themselves from their “internal critic” and express themselves fully through their writing. For more on my workshops and appearances, go to Talks & Workshops.