About Alex Media: Download Bio for Conference Organizers | Download Author Photo
I was born in a log cabin in the Big Woods of . . . okay, maybe not. I was born in a small town on Long Island, New York. When I was five years old, my mom said that I should be an author. I guess I must have nodded or something because, from that point on, every poem I ever wrote in school was submitted to Highlights or Cricket magazine. I was collecting rejection slips at age seven!
I learned to read early and often. But I compensated for this early proficiency by absolutely refusing to read the programmed readers required by the school system — workbooks where you read the story, then answered the questions. When the other kids were on Book 20, I was on Book 1! My teacher, Mrs. Zeiser, told my mother, “Alexandra marches to her own drummer.” I don’t think that was supposed to be a good thing. Now, when my daughter, Katie, brings home FCAT prep materials where you are supposed to read a passage and answer questions, I want to ask the teacher, “Does she really need to do this? She can read!!!”
My favorite authors were Astrid Lindgren, Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Marilyn Sachs, and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I also read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett about 50 times. I think I always thought Ram Dass and his monkey might sneak into my room with a magical picnic all my own!
My family moved to Miami when I was in middle school. I had a really hard time making friends, so I spent a lot of time reading and writing then. But unlike Christopher Paolini or Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, I never finished writing a novel. That was also when I learned to be a keen observer (Picture Harriet the Spy). By high school, I’d made some friends and gotten involved in various “gifted and talented” performing arts programs. I studied opera in college (I’m a coloratura — the really loud, high-pitched sopranos.) and then went to law school.
It was law school that probably helped with my first novel. Breathing Underwater deals with the serious and all-too-common problem of dating violence. I based the book on my experiences interning with the State Attorney’s Office and volunteering with battered women. I thought this was a really important topic, as 27 % of teenage girls surveyed have been hit by a boyfriend. I’m happy that the book is so popular, and if you are reading this bio because the book was assigned for school, I’m happy about that too.
I started writing an early (and laughable) version of Breathing Underwater in college (I was really bored on a car trip with my parents). I didn’t get back to it until I had my first daughter, Katie. I’m self-taught. I went to the library and took out books on writing. Then, I read a lot of young-adult novels by writers I admired, particularly Richard Peck. Reading his books is like listening to Mozart — you learn the right way to write a novel. Then, you fill in your own style. I actually got to meet Richard Peck in person at a workshop of the Key West Literary Seminar. Lots of writers have been really helpful to me, especially Richard and fellow YA author, Joyce Sweeney.
I write my first drafts longhand. At first, I did that because I didn’t own a computer. Then, I borrowed a memory typewriter and finally purchased a computer three years after I began writing. A year later Breathing Underwater was finished then accepted.
I think I write for young-adults because I never quite got over being one. In my mind, I am still 13-years-old, running laps on the athletic field, wearing this really baggy white gymsuit. I’m continually amazed at the idea that I have a checking account and a mortgage. So I try to write books that gymsuit girl might enjoy. It’s a way of going back to being thirteen . . . knowing what I know now.
Right now, I live half a mile away from my old middle school, in Palmetto Bay, a suburb of Miami, with my husband, Gene, and daughters, Katie and Meredith.