I grew up in the country. There were four houses in a row filled with relatives-aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, dogs, cats, and then my family too. My cousins and I had fields and pastures, creeks and barns to play and pretend in. Our focal point was an old chicken coop which the adults gutted and then filled with the remains of an abandoned one-room schoolhouse. This included desks, chalkboards, and boxes of books. If I wasn't reading books in that chicken coop by my favorite authors-Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott-I was writing them-folding paper in half and using crayons to illustrate my words. No matter what the season that farmland and its natural props provided inspiration and the means through which young imaginations were free to soar-and soar they did!
One Christmas my grandfather made me a simple pine desk with a center drawer. When I opened the drawer and found a pad of lined paper with a #2 sharpened pencil waiting for me I knew I wanted to be a writer.
Encouraging this was the fact that my mother and grandfather were avid readers. Books surrounded me. After a hard day's work my grandfather would sit in his chair in the parlor of his old farmhouse and read Zane Grey novels and The Saturday Evening Post. My mother made frequent trips to a bookstore in our downtown-the kind of bookstore with small window panes and weathered shelves and tables that had probably been there for generations. I went with her whenever I could for I'd been bitten by the urge to write.