Q: What made you choose Valparaiso University?
A: I grew up in a little town called Goshen, Indiana. I knew I wanted to go into engineering, so I went to Purdue for a summer camp. But when I got there, I found the campus to be a bit overwhelming. I had also applied to Valpo and visited campus, and I really liked Valpo’s campus. I always enjoyed the size and small classrooms, and the fact that all the professors knew you by name. They were also always available and ready to help.
Q: What engineering jobs did you have after your graduation from Valpo?
A: I was looking for a meaningful job in engineering where I could contribute. I held several engineering jobs and had different reasons or personal circumstances for moving each time. One of my notable careers was at McDonnell Douglas Space Systems in California, and I was part of such a big program making rockets for NASA. I worked on Delta and Titan rockets, and the Delta-Star spacecraft that NASA purchased. Our rockets were responsible for putting their satellites into space, and I really liked be part of such a big team where we were all contributing and collaborating. I later moved to South Bend, Indiana to South where I was an engineer working with the automotive industry, making brakes and brake boosters. It was rewarding to be part of the process in helping make reliable safe cars.
Q: What pushed you to leave your engineering career and begin to write children’s books?
A: We adopted our first child, and then I also had a son. I always knew I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, so that’s when I left engineering. When my children were growing up, I read them lots of children’s books, which I always loved. As I was reading to my children, I thought about what could I write in my own children’s books, and that thought didn’t go away. So, I decided I wanted to give it my best shot. I started taking a writing class at a local community college and participated in critique groups. It took eight solid years of rejection letters before I got my first book published. It also dawned on me in the process that most writers are not science and math people. Since I had a passion for those topics, maybe I needed to think about books with science and math in them.
A: Due to my engineering and space background, I enjoy writing about STEM topics, and I recently released four space-related books: “Countdown,” “Daring Dozen,” “A Computer Called Katherine,” and “Astronaut Annie.” When I start writing a book, I pick two topics that I am interested in. Most of my books have to do with well-known female historical figures that I am excited to share with my readers.
In particular, I wanted to write a special book for the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Everyone remembers the Apollo 11 mission, but we forget that Apollos 1–10 existed and the wonderful women in STEM who contributed to those missions, which inspired “Countdown.” “Astronaut Annie” was my only fiction book that I’ve written, and it follows a girl during her career day at school. It was submitted for NASA’s Storytime from Space program, and actually, astronaut Anne McClain read the book from the International Space Station. I was hoping she would be able to read it, and when she did, she also shared her own story about pursuing her dream as an astronaut — so it was very full circle for both of us!