For the first eight years of my life I lived in Ludington and I believed that the rest of the world was located on a very small island in the middle of Lake Michigan. As I grew older, I realized I had been mistaken, but I still considered Michigan to be the finest place anyone could live. After college I married an army officer, Dennis Farley, and we began moving hither and yon, settling in five different states and three different countries. After my husband died, I considered all the beautiful places I had lived and decided Ludington was the best of all. I am now back living by the shores of Lake Michigan.
As a teenager I worked at the Ludington Public Library and I knew even then that I wanted to write books for kids. My first book, published in 1958, was written while I was a college student at Western in Kalamazoo. After that early success, it took eight years before my next book was accepted. By then I had learned that a writer should write about what she knows, so I made Ludington the setting for Mystery of the Fog Man (published in 1966) and plotted out two more mysteries for the young detectives to solve. I was then living in Scottville , while my husband served his first tour in Vietnam.
Because I identified with kids who might have a parent absent from the home, I wanted to write a book for them. Sergeant Finney's Family told the story of a military family whose father was in Vietnam. After Dennis returned home, he was sent first to Kansas and then to Michigan State, and then back again to Vietnam. I began thinking a great deal about my own childhood, and I was writing plots revolving around those long ago years. The Bunch on McKellahan Street focused on eight children growing up during World War II and was written while we lived in East Lansing. Later we moved to New Jersey, then back again to Kansas, where I wrote several more mysteries, these featuring girl detectives.
My own father had died when I was nine years old. By 1975, when we were stationed in Virginia, I was ready to write a novel about a child whose father dies. The Garden Is Doing Fine was published in 1977 and is probably the best known, since it won The Golden Kite from The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators in California and was honored as the Best Book for Children by the Child Study Association in New York.
In that same year, Dennis had orders for Korea, so our whole family moved to Seoul. It was an exciting time for our four children, and we all learned a great deal. I wrote two non-fiction books about Korea and I became fascinated by their alphabet, which was created by the famous King Sejong in 1446. Several years later I retold a legend about that event in The King's Secret, published in 2001.
After two years in Korea, Dennis was sent to head the ROTC department at Central Michigan University, so my family settled in Mt. Pleasant. It was then that I discovered that the State of Michigan was offering a program for writers to visit schools, so I joined the authors working with the Michigan Council For the Arts, and I was able to visit dozens of schools. This program was a wonderful way to inspire kids to love both reading and writing. I don’t know whether it still exists, but I know it was worthwhile to all involved.
In the meantime I finished getting my masters degree in Children’s Literature at Central, and I taught correspondence classes. We soon moved to Higgins Lake, where I happily resided by water once again. As the years rolled by, I also took on shorter projects, writing short stories for magazines and newspapers. In 2006, fourteen of the tales I wrote for The LA Times when we lived in Las Vegas were put together and published by Scholastic under the title Solve It! Now, at age 75, after moving twenty four times and having twenty books and dozens of shorter tales published, I have retired. I have many happy memories of the hundreds of Michigan kids I visited over the years. I am honored to know my books have been in libraries in many countries, since several have been translated into other languages. Kids are the best audience of all, because they write letters to authors. I have saved some of them.
My favorite one consists of just one line:
“I have read your book. It makes me wonder every day.”
Hurrah for kids who wonder!
Debbie: Hurrah, indeed! Carol, thank you so much for being here for Michigander Monday, and for all that you've done to bring wonder to kids through your books!