TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Mary Quattlebaum

Mary Quattlebaum

Mary Quattlebaum says: My father used to recite nursery rhymes to my brothers and sisters and me when we were little, right before bedtime. We each could choose one rhyme, and I asked for "Hickory Dickory Dock" night after night. When Dad finished and turned out the lights, I would snuggle down and repeat that poem softly, loving those "ck" sounds and making up new activities for that busy mouse.

Since then I've been fascinated with sounds. In the Virginia countryside where I grew up, there was the bobwhite call of the quail, the whicker of horses, the pit-pat of rain against our tin roof. Now that I live in a city--Washington, D.C.--I listen to the beep-beep of horns, the tromp of shoes on sidewalks, the murmur of many voices.

As the oldest child in the family, I often read aloud to my six siblings. We loved Curious George and Amelia Bedelia. Every two weeks we visited the nearest public library and checked out so many books we had to lug them to the car in a clothes basket. These treasures inspired our games of mustang and a series of tiny

Although I had studied language development and psychology at the College of William and Mary and received a Master's in Literature from Georgetown University, I didn't think about writing for children until I became a medical writer at a children's hospital. There my husband Christopher (a former kid magician) and I led a weekly volunteer project that combined magic and poetry to entertain sick kids and encourage their writing. So playful, solemn, and moving were their stories and poems that they triggered my desire to write for a young, creative audience.

Writing for young readers continues to be a wonderful challenge. I try to listen to the world (to others this might look like daydreaming) and bring a sense of different voices and rhythms to the page. The people, pets, and happenings of childhood and my current neighborhood are lively muses. Grover G. Graham and Me (middle-grade novel) and the forthcoming Sparks Fly High (picture book folktale) are set in my home state of Virginia. Family Reunion (picture book of poetry) recalls wonderful beach trips and The Shine Man (Christmas picture book) draws upon my father's tales of childhood during the Depression. Jackson Jones and the Puddle of Thorns, Jackson Jones and Mission Greentop, and the forthcoming Jackson Jones and the Curse of the Outlaw Rose (all middle-grade novels) were inspired by my city community garden. And Winter Friends and A Year on My Street (picture books of poetry) draw on my city neighborhood.

I also enjoy writing for the Washington Post and various magazines as a free-lance writer, teaching creative writing, gardening, reading, and spending time with my husband and daughter and our pets. And I love regular reunions with my large, extended family.