I have two cats, Benjamin (the young one) and Boris (the old one). Benjamin was a stray cat who asked to come inside one cold February day. Boris and I agreed that it would be all right to let him in. He decided to stay. I put an extra bowl beside Boris's kitty bowl and now they eat side by side.
I have always loved cats and dogs and many of my dear pets of days gone by appear in my books. Martha Jane is in The Bookshop Dog. Gracie Rose is in The Great Gracie Chase. Edward Velvetpaws and Tomato are in Cat Heaven.
Many of my favorite things to do are also in my books: Mr. Putter makes tea and takes naps in the Mr. Putter and Tabby books. Lila and Whistler explore the seashore in the Lighthouse Family books. Annie dresses fancy in the Annie and Snowball books. Murray watches "Jeopardy" in Gooseberry Park . (Murray is a bat but he likes TV). Simple things make good stories.
I did not plan to become a writer. But I did want to be useful and to do something meaningful.
I grew up in a large coal-mining family in West Virginia. I loved school and my bike and twirling a baton. I had a happy, peaceful life in the mountains, and that life inspired many of my books, including When I Was Young in the Mountains, The Relatives Came, The Blue Hill Meadows, Christmas in the Country, and Snow.
I moved to Ohio when I was grown up and my little boy and I had lovely times there. We lived beside a very nice professor who became Professor Albert in Gooseberry Park. Kona, the chocolate labrador, lived across the street. We met a big drooly dog who became Mudge in the Henry and Mudge books. We flew kites and went sledding and watched movies in the old movie theater in Kent. The farm fields were beautiful in the fall, the sky so blue, the fields so deep and brown.
Then we moved to Oregon and there were new adventures. In Oregon I decided to pick up a paintbrush--which I had never done in my whole life--and I painted a book in three weeks. It was my first book painted all by myself, and it was called Dog Heaven. I was afraid to try to paint, but a friend said, "Just paint like a child," and I did. Blue, red, yellow, green, purple . . .squirt, squirt, squirt.
I lived on an island for awhile. I saw eagles catch fish and I once saw a whale's tail which sent me spinning with delight. The fog was very very thick some days. And there were rainbows nearly every day in springtime. And all these things made me feel like writing because it is really a beautiful world. It is a world worth writing about. We go through many changes in our lives, and some of them are hard. But the sky still has stars at night, the moon still shines. The world does not leave us empty-handed.
Boris and Benjamin and I, and all my faraway pets who are having adventures in Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven, and my old green house, and the raccoon in the garden, and the baby squirrels in the walnut tree in the yard . . .we all send you love.
The Brownie and Pearl Books
Steadfast Tin Soldier
When I Was Young in the Mountains
The Mr. Putter and Tabby books
The Henry and Mudge books
The Annie and Snowball books
The Poppleton books
The High-Rise Private Eyes books
The Lighthouse Family series
The Cobble Street Cousins series
The Van Gogh Cafe
Waiting to Waltz
If your classroom would like to write to me, I will send a postcard back in care of your teacher.
Here is an address you can use:
Cynthia Rylant, Author
Simon and Schuster Children's Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
I try to answer mail as soon as I can, I hope you don't mind waiting!
Thank you for your letters, for reading my stories, for visiting me here.
I wish each of you the very best happiness in the world.