I was born in Boston and grew up near Kansas City. My parents had emigrated from China to America.
As a child I liked to climb trees, ride my bicycle, write letters to pen pals, play the flute and piano, and eat dim sum at our family reunions every summer.
I loved learning about all kinds of things in school. If I finished my classwork early, my fifth-grade teacher let me write reports for fun. I would read the encyclopedia and write about topics such as zinc, Benjamin Franklin, and the process of making maple sugar (with illustrations).
Reading was one of my favorite things to do. I loved biographies of people overcoming challenges, life in far-away places, and stories of adventure or humor. Every school day in seventh grade, I checked two books out of the library, read them that evening, and exchanged them the next day for two more books.
Because I’ve always been curious about what motivates people, I studied psychology (BA, Stanford), human development (MEd, Harvard), and educational psychology (PhD, Stanford). I then did postdoctoral work in Munich, Germany, at the Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research.
After my two daughters were born, I started writing nonfiction and fiction for children, as well as magazine articles for grown-ups. Writing allows me to explore topics that fascinate me and lets me use the research skills I honed in all those years of schooling.
A big influence on me has been experiencing life in different parts of the world. I have been in more than thirty-six states and lived in the Northeast, Midwest, West, and South regions. I’ve also lived in Asia, Western Europe, and Africa and visited thirty-eight countries on six continents. In my experience, every part of the world has its special beauty, delicious foods, and friendly people.
Now I live in Colorado, though I travel to new places whenever I can.