What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
Although only my father is Italian, I grew up with a strong connection to my Italian heritage. And really, when does one’s heritage shine more brightly than the holidays? So, every Christmas Eve finds me with my family in our Maine farmhouse kitchen making homemade ravioli. My husband Ken rolls out the dough that has been resting on the counter under a bowl for several hours while my son Topher and I wrestle the circles of dough he provides us into folded cushions of deliciousness that we drop into a boiling pot of salted water. Later, we light the candles in our formal dining room and sit down with our grandbaby Camden and our daughter-in-law Caitlin to a feast of baked ravioli, homemade rolls, green salad, and glasses of red wine—the perfect Christmas Eve feast.
Were you a teacher’s pet or teacher’s challenge?
Oh goodness, I was neither teacher’s pet nor teacher’s challenge. Instead, I was the invisible child. If my best friend, Linda Benko, was absent, I spoke to no one the entire day, including my teacher! I was so desperately shy, and lived in a cocoon from which I didn’t emerge until I was sixteen years old when I suddenly and quite unexpectedly metamorphosed into the gal I am now, verbally exuberant and highly interpersonal.
What’s the first book report you ever wrote?
While I don’t remember writing my first book report, I am absolutely sure that, as an enormously passionate reader, I wrote it with great enthusiasm and ardor.
Do you like to gift wrap presents?
Presents! I adore presents—getting them and especially GIVING them. For me, a deeply satisfying part of preparing a gift for giving is the wrapping, the beribboning, the embellishing. Of course, that means that I keep a five-foot- wide drawer full to the top with a tangle of wrapping paper, ribbons, tags, flowers, gauzy bags, and all manner of doo-dads.
What do you wish you could tell your 10-year old self?
“As you gobble those piles and piles of library books, Toni Marie, think about what it would be like to WRITE books like those. Dream the dream of being an author.” Sadly, I was never encouraged to write, even in high school when surely, I’d begun to show signs of talent, which is why it took me so very long to launch my career writing for children. How much earlier I might have begun had I heard that advice!
What 3 children’s book authors or illustrators or editors would you like to invite to dinner?
Here’s one of the best things about being a children’s author. I often get to have dinner with my favorite (living) writers. So, given this opportunity, I’d like to go to my childhood favorites and invite 98-year-old Beverly Cleary, author of my beloved Beezus and Ramona and Henry books; Maud Hart Lovelace, author of the Betsy-Tacy books I read over and over; and Carolyn Haywood, author of my other favorite Betsy books. And before that dinner, I would re-read every single one of those childhood favorites.
Where’s your favorite place to read?
For me, there is something completely luxurious about crawling back into bed, of a morning, with a cup of tea and pillows piled all around, and spending an hour or two with a book and not a single electronic device in sight.