My life has been a wonderful adventure that has included many years of education, raising a family, growing gardens, enjoying outdoor activities, and lots of travel, as well as writing. This page will be updated often, with tales of my travels and updates on my most recent writing projects. I’ll also be posting a blog in which I’ll write about my thoughts on creativity and the writing process.
I’ve just finished writing a book about how the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park appears to be bringing many aspects of the park’s ecology back to health. I’m working with photographer Dan Hartman, who lives in Silvergate, Montana, right at the border of the park. For years, Dan has braved the fierce Yellowstone winter to document the wolves as they reclaimed their ancient home.
I was born in 1940 in Rochester, MN, where my father was a physician at the Mayo Clinic. We moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when I was nine years old, and I grew up in Marin County. From the beginning, I loved animals and the out of doors, where I spent as much time exploring the woods and fields as possible. The walls of my bedroom were lines with terrariums and aquariums containing my pet snakes, frogs, lizards, and tropical fish.
Studying living things was natural for me, and I received a bachelor's degree in Biological Sciences from Stanford University (1962) and a M.A. (1965) and PhD. (1968) in Zoology from the University of California, Berkeley. While in graduate school, I married fellow student Greg Patent. We had two sons, David and Jason, both now grown and married, and five grandchildren.
For the first few years after graduate school I worked as a parttime scientist--two years of post-doctoral work (Sinai Hospital, Detroit, MI, and Stazzione Zoologica, Naples, Italy).
When my husband got a university faculty job in North Carolina, I decided to try my hand at writing nature books for children. I wanted to be able to stay home and raise my children, but I also wanted to exercise my mind and use my knowledge and training to share my love of the natural world with others.
I began writing for children in 1972 and have had books published by more than a dozen publishers. In addition to my science and nature books for children, I have coauthored two gardening books for adults, one of which was revised and reissued in 1997. I have more than 130 published books to date.
I share a passion for cooking with my husband Greg, who is now a food writer and cookbook author. We coauthored a 1999 cookbook, “A Is for Apple” and have written articles together for Woman’s Day, Saveur, and Relish, most recently about chocolate.
I have also written about writing, nature, and travel for many magazines, including Arizoo, Camas, The Horn Book, The Writer, Cricket, Spider, Storyworks, Falcon, and Wild Outdoor World magazines and for The Missoulian newspaper. My photographs have appeared in National Gardening Magazine, The Missoulian, and in many of my children's books. I enjoy teaching about writing, especially helping people free themselves from their “internal critic” and express themselves fully through their writing. For more on my workshops and appearances, go to Talks & Workshops.