Once upon a pen pal

California author Gretchen Maurer says her love of reading began during childhood, and eagerly recounts some of her favorite titles — including “The Borrowers,” “Harriet the Spy” and “The Secret Garden.” Plus the works of Roald Dahl, an author also favored by Maurer’s three children ages 8, 11 and 14.

Maurer remembers reading National Geographic’s magazine for children when she was about nine years old, but it wasn’t her only source of information about people in other places. Maurer’s parents often took the family hiking and backpacking, near home and beyond. They spent summers on a Minnesota farm, and traveled by small plane to remote regions of Alaska.

Maurer traveled to Europe long before writing about one of England's most famous queens

They even managed to squeeze in trips to Europe and Turkey during school vacations. Maurer remembers having several pen pals as a child — from Germany, England and Austria. “I wrote them long letters about all I saw and noticed,” says Maurer. “It was my outlet.”

Maurer exchanged letters with a fourth pen pal, from India, even after getting married — and says she still wears the necklace, gold with a red bead, that the pen pal once gave her. Despite the long and frequent letters, Maurer didn’t consider herself a writer.

After encountering “an inspiring writer teacher” while studying at Santa Clara University, Maurer was “bitten by the writing bug.” Maurer recalls loving writing classes above all others, and confesses to spending a lot more time on writing  projects than she needed to. She wrote for the English department’s magazine before beginning to write on her own. College gave Maurer more freedom to decide how to spend her free time — and writing topped the list.

She’s still at it, and her latest work is part of a new Goosebottom Books series titled “The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Deeds.” Maurer’s “Mary Tudor Bloody Mary,” like other books in the series, is illustrated by Peter Malone. Never mind modern day admonitions to avoid talk of religion and politics over dinner. “Bloody Mary” makes for fascinating reading and discussion by tweens through adults. I’ll tell you why in my next post.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to read tips for visiting museums with children shared by Jane Havemeyer, former museum educator and author of another title in the “Dastardly Dames” series.

Coming up: What’s in a name?

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One response to “Once upon a pen pal

  1. Pingback: neat stuff I got from my old Russian pen pal when I was a teen… – Master Huldschinsky's Adventures

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