I'm always asked if I was encouraged to write by my teachers when I was young. I can't say that I was. But writing came easily. I was a co-feature editor of the high school paper. And when I was a junior I had an English teacher, Albert Komishane, who gave us the freedom to be creative and appreciated our efforts.

Later, I took a class in writing for young people at New York University. I received professional encouragement from my teacher. When the class ended after one semester, I took it again. And before the end of the second semester a few of my stories were accepted for publication in small magazines. My teacher presented me with a red rose in class. I don't think anything is as exciting as that first acceptance, even when it brings a payment of just twenty dollars.

I wish every would-be writer could be as lucky as I was in finding a supportive teacher. Mine did not like or approve of all my work. But her criticism was presented in a positive way. She gave me the courage to try a novel instead of the rhyming picture books I was writing when I entered her class. I wrote the first draft of Iggie's' House while I was taking her course, turning in one chapter a week.