Biography

Some of my stories are set in North America, some in India. Some cross from one place into the other and back again, just like me.

infant_uma                uma_portrait2

I was born in New Delhi, India. My father worked for the government, so we moved quite often which meant that every four years or so, I was in a new school. I didn’t have any brothers or sisters, so books were my friends. The stories I read and the stories I made up in my head both felt very real to me.

The first story I ever wrote was in green crayon on a wall. Of course, it got painted over, so I have no idea what it was about but I do remember it had ducks in it.

Many writers of my generation have fond memories of pen and ink. I fell in love with typewriter keys! My father had a Remington Rand manual typewriter. I can still remember the clean sharp smell of inky ribbon. When I struck the keys, metal letters would fly up to hit the paper and leave their mark. I hammered away at those keys. I wrote stories and typed them up. At ten, I began sending my writing off to magazines. When I was thirteen, my first poem was published in “Children’s World,” an Indian children’s magazine.

I read all the time, even though no one at the time wrote anything about the world I lived in. I read everything I could lay my hands on–Hans Christian Andersen, A.A.Milne, Beatrix Potter, Noel Streatfield, a couple of books by E. Nesbit, and old copies of Life magazine and the Reader’s Digest Junior Treasury. Like so many kids in India then, I read Enid Blyton. There was a lot in Blyton’s books that mystified me. I didn’t know what scones were, or heather. Eventually I got disillusioned with her books, but I still have fond Blyton memories. She taught me to race through stories, breathless, heading into the drama, reading for context and clue. Maybe it was all just practice for the writer I’d end up becoming.

All the places in India where I lived left their imprint upon me. So did former homes in suburban Maryland and in the high mesas of northwest New Mexico.

Now I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  Some of my stories are set in North America, some in India. Some cross from one place into the other and back again, just like me. I teach in the MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, VT. That haunted hall on a green hill has also become a part of who I am.