Catherine Urdahl
Catherine Urdahl
The Littlest Sailboard
My first book, The Littlest Sailboat

I was eight when I wrote and illustrated my first book, The Littlest Sailboat. In the book, a sailboat gets stuck in the middle of the lake, where it cries gigantic tears that slide down its sail and splash into the water. I tied the book together with yarn. It was wonderful.

Cathy and her mother, readingLike most authors, I’ve always loved books. I was lucky to have a mom who was a first-grade teacher and read to me lots and lots—starting when I was a baby. (That’s me with the pudgy cheeks. When the little dog got hurt, I put my hand on my head and said “owww.”)

Some of my favorite books were The Little Engine that Could, James and the Giant Peach, and The Cow in the Silo.

Cathy and her dollsMy two sisters and I played together a lot—though sometimes we got in fights. I especially liked playing school. Since we all wanted to be teachers, our dolls and stuffed animals were the students. (Here I am with my class. I’m the one standing straight and tall.)

At first I liked playing school more than going to real school—a place that kind-of scared me. On the walk there, I’d hear the WOOOOF-WOOOOF of a giant dog or the yip-yip of a small dog. And I was TERRIFIED of dogs—big, little, and in-between. (Now I’m just scared of big dogs and snakes.) In kindergarten, I also was scared of my teacher. She told us to put the blue brush in the blue paint and the red brush in the red paint. I kept forgetting. (Here I am on the first day of kindergarten.)

Cathy as a young girlI did like visiting the school library. There, I often sat alone in the corner looking at books. Sometimes I was so quiet the teacher forgot me in the library. This didn’t bother me. I finally did make friends outside my books, but I still loved reading. In the summer, my friends and I biked to and from the library with giant armloads of books. Then I’d sit in the branches of my favorite tree and read. I especially liked Nancy Drew mysteries.

I went to college at St. Olaf in Northfield, Minnesota. There I decided I’d like to pursue a career in writing. One of my stories won a contest and was published in Campus Life magazine. The prize was $500!

After college, I moved to the Minneapolis area, where I took a job in corporate communications. That’s a fancy way to say I wrote articles companies put in magazines for their employees. I wrote about new computer programs, making French fries, treating your fellow workers nicely, and lots of important things. I liked the job and learned a lot. But I still loved children’s books—especially the ones with beautiful pictures. Sometimes on my lunch break I went to the bookstore and sat in the children’s section looking at books. Sometimes I was late getting back to work.

Eventually I stopped just dreaming of writing children’s books and started writing. I also took lots of classes and practiced and practiced. My first book, Emma’s Question, was published in 2009, and my second, Polka-dot Fixes Kindergarten, was published in 2011.

A few years ago, I started writing biographies—stories about real people who’ve done great things. I’m mostly interested in writing about women, since history books fail to recognize so many of their amazing achievements. Virginia was A Spy is my first published picture book biography.

When I’m not writing or reading, I like to ride in my kayak and go for walks. In the winter, I like to take naps in front of my fireplace. In the summer, I like to take naps in the sun. If I took fewer naps, I probably would write more books.

Every day, I thank God for my life. I hope you do the same.