Dad was a hobby photographer. He turned our downstairs bathroom into a darkroom so he could develop his photos. Here are some pictures he took of our family.--Darleen Bailey Beard
Like most kids, I started out bald and funny looking. Mom says I didn't smell very nice either!
This is my big sister, Sherrie. She's five years older than me. Growing up, she used to say, "I'll always be older than you, smarter than you, and bigger than you." She was right. She is older than me, bigger than me, and way smarter, but that's okay. I still love her anyway!
Sherrie and I - all dressed up on Easter Sunday, 1962. Our mom sewed those matching dresses. Weren't we just too cute?
Here we are on Christmas with our dog, Ginger. Shhh, don't tell my mom she's on this web site in curlers,she'd just die. I'm sitting by Mom. I was only 4 years-old. My sister is sitting by Dad. She was 9 years-old.
Mother's Day 1966 - Me (5 years), Sherrie(10 years), & Mom. (Left to right)
I was raised in Levittown, PA, in the 1960's. All us neighbor kids used to play flashlight tag, stickball, go sledding, and catch crawdads & frogs in pop bottles at the creek. In 1971, I had an amazing, life-changing experience--I met my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Jacqui Schickling. Her classroom was filled with words and writing. She created a school newspaper called the "Hoover Hotline" and we all became reporters, columnists, and editors. We wrote book reports, stories with our spelling words, and wrote and illustrated our very own books.
One day, Mrs. Schickling put her arm around me and said, "If you work hard at this, I think you can write a real book when you grow up." And that's just what I've done. My first book, The Pumpkin Man from Piney Creek, (Simon & Schuster, 1995) is dedicated to my teacher.
To the right is a picture of my elementary school, Herbert Hoover Elementary in Langhorne, PA. I went from K to 6th grade at this great school. I have so many fond memories here.
My old house. The circled window was my bedroom window. I used to crawl out onto the garage roof & sunbathe!
Herbert Hoover Elementary School, Langhorne, PA
Here's our class picture: I'm in the second row of girls, third from the left. I was very skinny and the tallest girl in my class. My nickname was "Chicken Legs." My best friend was Kathy Dyer, she's sitting in the front row to the left of our sign. She's now a registered nurse, married, has two kids, and even a granddaughter.
Mrs. Jacki Schickling--my 5th-grade teacher
This is my wonderful, loving, fun, beautiful, tall, 5th-grade teacher, Mrs. Jacqui Schickling. Back then, she was Mrs. Etter. I loved her dearly and still do. When you meet a teacher like her, one who changes your life and makes you feel like you can conquer the world, well, you never forget her. She may forget you--LOL--but you never forget her and to hear that story, you'll have to invite me to your school!
After I dedicated my first book to her, we stayed in touch for many years. She passed away a few years ago. Sadly, she fought a long, hard battle with cancer. I wanted to attend her funeral, but couldn't, so I did the next best thing--I wrote a heartfelt essay about how she played such an important role in my life and sent it to her daughter, Sheri, for her funeral.
In my essay, I told her of all the fun things we did in my 5th-grade year and how her mom made me feel so loved and so important. No other teacher had done that before or after her. She was an amazing woman and now I'm so proud to be in touch with her daughter, Sheri and her grandson. Guess what? Her grandson just sent me an email, asking about careers in journalism, saying that he was thinking of choosing journalism as a career! Life is a full circle, isn't it?
In 1973, we moved to Salem, Arkansas, and in 1974 we moved to Noble, Oklahoma.
When I was 15 years old, a twister went over my home. Dad, my dog Brutus, and I ran to our cellar, but Mom wouldn't step out of the house because she had just had her hair styled at the beauty parlor and didn't want it to get all wind-blown. Little did I know then, that twenty years later, I'd recall that memory and turn it into a picture book called Twister. (Published 1999, Farrar Straus Giroux, Inc.) Just to ease your mind, we made it through the twister just fine and Mom's hair wasn't messed up a bit. She was still pretty as ever.
Me & Brutus, my wonderful border collie. He died when I was 28 years old. I was about 20 years-old here.
This is Mom and me in 1986, when I received my bachelor's degree in Professional Writing from the University of Oklahoma. I tried to convince my sister, Sherrie, that now I was smarter than her, but she wouldn't agree. Some things never change.
Here's Mom, me, Sherrie, and Dad in January, 1996. Sherrie had just turned forty and I'd just turned thirty-five. I was five months pregnant with my daughter, Karalee.
Here are my two pumpkins, Spencer and Karalee. When they were little, they used to fight and argue same as my sister and I used to do, except Spencer didn't learn the art of stuffing his dirty socks into Karalee's mouth, like Sherrie used to do to me. I got her back though. But to hear those stories, you'll have to see her web site. Lucky for me, she doesn't have one!
Being an author is the job of my dreams. I spend a lot of time doing my favorite things -- writing, editing, researching, interviewing people, and reading.
I also have a lot of fun teaching others how to write for children, doing school author visits, and speaking at conferences, libraries and bookstores all over the U.S. This is me at my very first book signing. I was excited & nervous. I autographed 80 books that day!
The best part about being an author is creating believable characters. To think I can invent characters in my mind and then bring them to life with words, is just amazing to me. When people ask me if my characters are real, I take that as one of the highest compliments an author can receive. Sometimes I dress up as my book characters to surprise students.
The second best part about being an author is doing school author visits and visiting with students. They always give me lots of hugs and hand-drawn notes and the energy I need to go back home and write another book.
When students ask me how long I've been an author, I say, "I've been an author since I was ten-years-old. The only difference is, now I'm a published author. So if you're serious about writing, and you love to write, you're an author, too." In this photo, I am speaking to a writer's festival for children in Dallas.
Here are our wonderful foreign students that we used to host.
Tony is from China and Jarek is from Czech Republic. Here they are acting very silly with Karalee, my daughter. Tony now lives in China with his wife Maggie and their daughter Yoyo. Jarek now lives in Prague, Czech Republic, with his wife and two sons. He teaches mathmatics in a college for the deaf and blind. Tony and Jarek are both featured in Annie Glover is NOT a Tree Lover! Tony plays the part of the journalist who works for Channel 8 News. And Jarek plays the part of one of the three flying Elvises. Tony has come back to visit us and stayed a few days with us at our home. I haven't seen Jarek, yet, but hope to go visit him in Prague. I am Czechloslovakian, so I'd love to go there to find relatives I've never met.
On June 2nd, 2011, I married the most wonderful man in the world! His name is David Riffle. Our wedding was at sunset, on top of a mountain, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Talk about romantic!
This is our trip to Hawaii for our 8th anniversary! Hang loose!
My little pumpkins are growing up! Spencer is now 30 and working as a Park Ranger at Brookville Lake in Brookville, IN. Karalee (brown hair) is now 23, a mom of my very first grandchild, Chloe Snow, and she just graduated from college to be a massage therapist. She is studying to get her state license so she will be a licensed massage therapist. She's also very VERY busy raising Chloe who keeps all of us on our toes. Joedi (blond hair) is my step-daughter. She is 32 and works at the University of Oklahoma. Joedi (pronounced Joe-D) is married to Richard. He works as an editor and writer for the Daily Oklahoman. So there are two writers in my family! Actually, three, because my son Spencer writes a lot on his job and is always posting things on the Brookville Lake FaceBook page. He's also written a couple of fun nonfiction articles for children and sent them to Highlights for Children Magazine but never heard back from them. Oh well, their loss! One was an interesting article about how he bands hummingbirds to help study their flight pattern. Being a ranger, he has lots of interesting animal stories.
Christmas with Mom and Dad
My parents are getting older. My dad is 88-years old and my mom is 86. Mom has Alzheimer's so she lives in a nursing home in Norman, Medical Park West. She doesn't remember much and has a hard time speaking and eating and doing just about anything. She's in a wheelchair and we have to feed her. I hate this horrible disease that is robbing her of her mind. I hope we can find a cure for Alzheimer's soon. My sister is also in a nursing home in OKC. She is in very bad health and has been for a long number of years.