About Linda: The Short Version
I am a writer, speaker, game maker and trampoline jumper. I write fiction and non-fiction for children and non-fiction for adults (so far). I love school visits, Skype visits, and in-school residencies. My books have been translated into ten languages and my writing has appeared in Highlights Magazine for Children and on PBS Learning Media. I’m always cooking up some new idea, so have a look at What’s New to see what’s next.
More about Linda: The Sit-Down-With-A-Cup-of-Tea Version
I grew up in Millis, a small town outside of Boston, Massachusetts. As a kid, I could be found in one of two places: outside, playing ball with my brothers or inside, curled up in my favorite cozy chair, reading a book. Every once in while my dad would arrive home from work with a twinkle in his eye. The twinkle meant he’d brought me a book from Boston, where he worked, 19 miles away. There was no Internet and we could only watch TV on Sunday nights, so books were my magic carpets. As a nine-year-old, I devoured Encyclopedia Brown and anything by James Herriot. My mom was a wonderful artist. I spent some of my happiest times in her workshop, making and painting things like boxes, stools, tables, puzzles and sometimes big canvases.
I started writing in a journal in third grade, and I’ve never stopped. When I was in fourth grade, I was 100% sure what I’d be when I grew up: a librarian! I loved reading books so much. Later, I discovered I wanted to be a lot of things but librarians are still some of my favorite people and I still spend some of my happiest hours in the library. Thanks to my eighth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Russ, I learned to look really closely at what I was reading. Wow! I started to see that there were so many pieces – action, descriptions, tone, emotion, tension, dialogue, point of view and more – that work together to make a great story. In my social studies class with Mr. Dooling, I began to hear the knocking of my own “voice,” that certain way of saying things that is unique to you. (Thank you Mrs. Russ and Mr. Dooling!)
After working for an advertising agency in New York City (where I learned how to really get a message across) and later for Outward Bound (where I learned a life motto – “To serve, to strive and not to yield” — and remembered how much I love nature), I landed at Harvard. There I studied how young people and their teachers think about living systems. Like a spider’s web, what happens on one part of the web affects every other part. The same is true of living systems, whether an ant colony, a school, a city or our climate. What’s really interesting is that these different kinds of systems share some similarities, and they can act in surprisingly similar ways.
(You can learn more about my systems work here).
By 2004, I had written my first two books and received my doctorate in education from Harvard. I began working as a systems educator, helping people of all ages to “think about systems.” That means that you don’t just think about the parts of the problem, but try to figure out how the parts all work together to produce the results you see. It’s a good day when I can work with young people to discover their own natural understanding of living systems, sometime through my stories or through hands-on activities, board games, really good website content, puppet shows, museum exhibits, computer games and simulations and hopefully soon, television shows.
I used to feel I wore two hats: one for systems and another for writing. Now I think of my life as a garden. Just as a mix of plants and vegetables makes my garden healthy, variety in my life helps to bring bounce and balance to my everyday life. At times, my children’s writing is inspired by my systems work, creating something new and harmonious, like a field of wildflowers. At other times, my writing stands on its own — there as a magic carpet, hoping to charm and delight you.
Every day I’m grateful for the support and love of my three amazing children and my husband, family and friends. And of course, for my agent, the remarkable Carrie Hannigan!