The first thing I can remember wanting to be is a children’s author. I also loved animals. We had a dog and a big outdoor cage full of doves. My good friend, Jenny, lived on a dairy farm and it was critter heaven for me. We would jump her horses bareback over bales of hay and ride for miles in the hills.
When I was in college I spent a year in Nairobi, Kenya, as an exchange student. I didn’t know much about Africa before I left, but I knew it had lots of wildlife. I met my future husband, Rob, in Paris on the way to Kenya. He was also an exchange student and we both loved our time in East Africa.
I have a B.A. in Social Science from the University of California, Irvine, and a Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley. I’ve worked as a legislative assistant for foreign affairs for a California congressman and as an international health consultant. Over the years Rob and I have lived in Kenya, the Marshall Islands, South Africa, the Philippines, and Japan. We have three children, Travis, Kelsey and Connor, each one born in a different country. Connor passed away unexpectedly in April 2023 and words cannot express how much we miss him. We have two grandchildren, Shepherd and Carter.
How I Started Writing
My family and I lived in Japan for about six years, and my children all attended a local Japanese preschool. The Japanese mothers at the preschool told me the story of Hachiko. I thought it was a wonderful tale. When we returned to the U.S., I decided I wanted to be a writer, just like I’d planned to be when I was four. (Better late than never.) Hachiko is famous in Japan, and I thought his story would be a wonderful one to share with English-speaking children. Hachiko was my first book. Since then I’ve written Gorilla Doctors, Life on Earth—and Beyond, A Life in the Wild, The Frog Scientist, Prowling the Seas, Project Seahorse, The Dolphins of Shark Bay, Samurai Rising, Crow Smarts, and How to Build a Human.
On the Home Front
My husband and I split our time between Oakland, California and Newberg, Oregon, where we have a vineyard and winery (Ambar Estate). Besides reading and writing, I love to scuba dive, snow ski, and practice kendo and iaido (Japanese martial arts). I also volunteer as a wildlife rehabilitator at the Lindsay Wildlife Hospital in Walnut Creek, CA, where I specialize in raising orphaned crows and ravens.