Cynthia Cotten, Virginia Childrens Author, fiction and poetry


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About Me,

I grew up in Lockport, New York, a small town in the western part of the state, on the banks of the Erie Canal.

Many writers know they wanted to write early in their lives. I was not one of those people. As I was growing up, I wanted to be a teacher, a marine biologist, a U.N. interpreter and a book translator. I loved horses so much that, for a while, I even wanted to be a jockey, like the heroine of one of my favorite childhood books, National Velvet.

Alas, two things blocked my way to the Grand National: my height (I didn't stop growing until I reached 5'11") and the fact that my mother didn't think riding horses was a good idea.

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I always loved to read. My mother and father were big readers, and we always had lots of books around the house. My idea of the perfect summer vacation was to go to the library once a week, check out as many books as I could fit into my bike basket, and spend the rest of the week sitting someplace cool, reading. And I always loved to play with words. I acquired a love of crossword puzzles from my mother and her mother. Even after I was out of college and living at home while I worked at my first job, I would go to my grandmother's house every Wednesday for lunch. We'd have her homemade vegetable soup, and work on the puzzle from the Sunday paper.

My first memorable (at least to me!) story was written for my eighth-grade composition class. Our teacher told us to write about a dangerous game. Mine was a lurid piece about some kids playing 'chicken' on the railroad tracks. It did not have a happy ending. When I finished reading it aloud in class, nobody said anything for a moment, then somebody said "wow." The teacher's response was something like, "very interesting. . ."

The year after I graduated from high school, I lived in Bruges, Belgium, as a Rotary International Exchange student. It was an unforgettable experience, and I still exchange Christmas letters with one of my "brothers."

My husband and I went to colleges that were about two hours apart. He was a year ahead of me, and we met at the breakfast table in January of my freshman year, while he was taking a course at my school.

We moved many times over the years, beginning in New York City. That was followed by Larchmont, NY; Clinton, NY; Ponca City, OK; McMurray, PA--a suburb of Pittsburgh; and Dumfries, in Northern Virginia. In 2014, we came full circle and moved back to my hometown of Lockport, NY, where we have a home on the banks of the Erie Canal. We have two grown children--Amanda and Christopher.

In 1981, when my daughter was two, I wanted to find a simple retelling of the Christmas story for her, and couldn't find anything I liked. That's when I uttered the fateful words, "I could do that." I began by taking a correspondence course from the Institute of Children's Literature. In 1986, a children's writer's group was begun at my local public library. I went to the first meeting, and have been a member ever since. Then, in 1997, I enrolled in the MFA in Writing for Children program at Vermont College, in Montpelier, VT. Midway through that program, in February 1998, I sold my first book, Snow Ponies.

Somebody once asked me if I could have my dream job, what would it be? My reply was that I have my dream job (although I would have loved to have been a backup singer for John Denver!). I love kids, I love books, I love writing--and while the words don't always come easily and there are days when I find myself looking for excuses not to sit down at my computer, there is really no other job I'd rather have.

I don't spend all my time writing, though. When I'm not writing or reading, I enjoy art quilting, music of all kinds, especially Irish traditional, watching movies and live theater, and canoeing and fishing with my husband. (We always throw the fish back!)

Incidentally, it took me twenty-two years to get that Christmas book written! Its title is This Is The Stable, and it came out in 2006.


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