First Grade

First grade, 1977-1978

I grew up about 80 miles east of Dallas, in the small town of Sulphur Springs, Texas. And it was there, at Lamar Elementary, that I wrote the first story that I remember sharing with the public: The Ozzie Bros. Meet The Monsters, inspired in equal parts by Star Wars (recurring dialogue: "Let's get out of here!"), the Muppets, Abbott & Costello, and the movie-monster books I loved to check out from the school library.

Photographer

I had a little free time during my summer
between high school journalism and
college journalism.

I have one older brother. Our mom taught high school French and Spanish, and our dad was an optometrist who died when I was eight. When I was a teenager, I loved writing with my friends, whether it was making up parodies of superheroes and soap operas or putting out an award-winning student newspaper.

It was that love of being part of a writing community that led me to the University of Texas at Austin, where I immediately joined the staff of The Daily Texan (and eventually graduated with a degree in history). A few years later, I stumbled into another group of Austin writers — children's writers. Here's how that happened:

Press Passes

I was glad to get my diploma, but these show
what I really went to college for.

My toddler son began asking me again and again to tell him over and over the story of how I had installed a smoke detector. The story had drill sounds and alarm sounds and a captivating plot, and he couldn't get enough. One morning, it struck me: If I could make him happy with that story, I could come up with other stories, and maybe other kids would like them, too. Not long after that, I remembered a newspaper article I'd read about the brothers who invented Day-Glo. That would make a cool story for children, I thought. Eight years later, it became my first book.

The Complete Idiots Guide to Publishing Children's Books

On my 31st birthday with my favorite gift:
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing
Children's Books.

Today I have more books on the way and lots of ideas for other stories I'd like to tell. When I'm not writing, reading, researching, or revising, I love to cook, listen to music and podcasts, and find out where my thoughts will take me while I go for long walks and runs. I still live in Austin -- now with my wife, author Jennifer Ziegler, our four children, and our dog, Ernie. I still enjoy sharing my writing with my friends and sharing in their successes. And the Ozzie Brothers still make me laugh.


The Ozzie Brothers