Why I wrote this book?
One of my mother-in-law’s favorite stories about my childhood concerns the afterschool job my sisters and I had delivering newspapers for the now defunct Philadelphia Evening Bulletin. The best part of the job was wrapping the papers with the other paperboys in the garage of the Walz house.
“So what do you do with the newspaper money?” Bernie Dixon asked one afternoon as my sisters looked on anxiously.
“We use it to buy pizza for dinner every Friday night.”
For some reason, Bernie and his friends thought this was hilarious.
“And what else? Do you just get pizza?” Bernie asked.
“Oh no, we also get to have soda.”
“Wow, soda!” added one of Bernie’s cohorts sarcastically.
It was obvious Bernie and his friends didn’t know my mother. Soda was a big deal in our house.
“Oh, yes,” I elaborated. “Of course, it all depends on us being well behaved at home and at school.”
“So if you’re really good you get to have pizza and soda?” Bernie asked.
I nodded my head.
“And I bet if you’re really super, duper good you get to have ice with your soda?”
“Oh, no,” I said emphatically. I could practically taste the ice-cold soda. “My mother always lets us have plenty of ice.”
Later my sisters scolded me. Why did I have to tell them all that stuff? Couldn’t I see they were making fun of us?
Of course, I couldn’t understand why my sisters were upset with me. But soon enough I’d learn that not every family shared pizza on Friday nights.
And it wasn’t just Friday nights. My mother did everything in her power to have the family sit together for dinner every night. It wasn’t the easiest thing, getting six children and mom and dad together for dinner. My father was a detective who worked the night shift every other week. When he was working he put an apron over his shirt and tie but kept his gun in his shoulder holster, a fact that stifled open debate. He could stay with us unless the dispatcher called, “Twenty-twelve. Twenty-twelve.” Then he went off into the night
If he didn’t get the call, my father sat with us for most of the dinner and did something extraordinary. He asked us questions about school and actually listened to our answers. There was always a twinkle in his eye when we told him about our days, what we had learned and who was misbehaving. He especially liked to hear about the daily struggles between the teachers and the more challenging students. One of his favorites was Billy Bowdren, who couldn’t whisper. Everything Billy said—and he said a lot—was at a foghorn level. If you didn’t know any better you would think he had a microphone hooked to his shirt. My father loved to hear about Billy Bowdren and the other characters who populated our childhood.
He would have made a great teacher, my father. He was a natural with kids and a born storyteller. There’s no doubt in my mind those qualities of my father are what led me to teaching and writing as careers.
Chronicling the exploits of Chollie, Sam and Duke in Me and Miranda Mullaly has allowed me to revisit some of the great times I had as a kid. As a teacher of at-risk teenage girls, I now know that the greatest gift my parents gave me as a kid was allowing me to be just that, a kid. It’s why I’m drawn to the middle grade and YA genres. And I hope you have as much fun reading Me and Miranda Mullaly as I had writing it.