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Meet Della Rowland

I have written about 40 children's books — about people (Martin Luther King, Jr, and Sacajawea), places (Ireland), and things (shoes, toys), as well as all kinds of animals and sea creatures, sports, fairy tales (including the Wolf’s version of Little Red Riding Hood), and more than 100 mystery stories, including the Clue Jr. Mystery series. My love of writing began with reading. My mom read to me before I could. She read for herself as well — thousands of books that overflowed bookshelves in stacks against the walls of our house. As I grew up I also read those books and we talked about them. In this way, she gave me a love of books and a love of words: how they sound; how elegantly they can fit together in a sentence, a well-turned phrase, or poem; how precisely they can express such slippery things as an idea or emotion. Books also gave me a way to slip away into wonderful worlds.

I began writing poetry as I was becoming a teenager. Poetry allowed me to express all the emotions, desires, and fears I felt then. When my parents divorced and my mom went into the hospital for two years, it also became a way that I could control the upheavals in my world. By writing a poem about a trauma, I turned it into something beautiful.

After growing up in Indiana with two sisters, a brother, and numerous cats, I lived briefly in Nashville then moved to New York City. There I worked as a secretary, a photographer, a window-dresser, a singer, and an editor for two magazines and three book publishers before publishing my first children’s book. Even though I have written everything from books to speeches to advertising to poetry for adults, I always prefer children. Writing children’s books gives me a way to once again slip away into a world that is still full of wonder, magic, honesty, love, curiosity, bravery, and redemption.

Several years ago I married a man with three children and we moved to Rutherford, NJ. Since then I have not only been writing books for children, I have also been teaching writing to children. It gives me great joy when I am able to open a door that helps them understand the writing process. Once they "get it" writing is no longer a chore but something creative that they can do well.

I have traveled to more than 100 schools and talked about writing stories, poetry, and mysteries. I also created a slide presentation that answers questions children ask about being an author. Here are some of the questions they have asked me.

Why did you want to become a writer?

I don't really know! I think a lot of people can't answer why they want to do something. There’s just something inside them that has to come out, or something they just have to do, and they can't help themselves and they can't really do anything else. I lived in my imagination when I was growing up and I think I started writing partly so I could create my own world. I also wanted to create worlds that children would want to enter, ones that they would understand, even if adults didn't.

Where do you get your ideas?

I get ideas from everyone and everything in my life, past and present. When I am creating a character, I remember family members, children I went to school with (friends or not), neighbors from every house I’ve ever lived in, and teachers (good or mean) I’ve had, and I use them. The characters in many of my mystery stories are based on my stepchildren. Writing mysteries taught me how important the setting of a story is. So I remember all the places I visited when I was growing up or traveling or walking in my town, and I use them too. I keep a notebook with me all the time to write down ideas or descriptions so I don’t forget them. I use this material in my stories.

What do you like to write about?

I love to retell folk tales and fairy tales because they are magical stories. Most of them are hundreds of years old and still have a message for us. I have never written about myself and now I would like to. Happy and difficult things happened to me growing up and I think I could write about them in a way that children could relate to.