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I grew up in a big family in Massachusetts, where my brothers and sisters and I spent a lot of time running around outside. We built forts in the woods with neighborhood friends, skated on frozen ponds in the winter, and played backyard baseball all summer long. Home plate was sweatshirt dropped on the lawn in front of a big woodpile, which made a great backstop. At the opposite side of the yard was a long, high forsythia hedge. Threading a hit between various trees and over the bushes was an automatic home run.

One other thing we did a lot, believe it or not, was read. At the beginning of summer, we’d all sign up for the local library’s reading program and race to see who could finish the most books by Labor Day. You got a star for every book you read. For every ten stars, you won a gift certificate for a free ice-cream cone. No wonder we loved reading so much! You should ask about summer programs at your library. Maybe you’ll get lucky.

I wrote my first story when I was seven. It was about a kid who gets captured by aliens while walking his dog. The slobbering, two-headed space creatures fly him to a distant planet where, for no good reason at all, they toss him in the pokey. With the help of a wild horse-like creature (packs of them roam the planet), the boy escapes. For the rest of the story, he gallops over towering space mountains while battling aliens. Eventually, he hijacks a space ship and escapes back to earth, where no time has passed. Kind of a science-fiction cowboy story, I guess.

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I’ve been writing ever since: books, magazine articles, true stuff and things I make up. I like facts. Very useful. But I think I like making stuff up even more. Just ask my two kids. They’re always telling me, “Dad! That’s not true! You're making stuff up again!” To which I reply, “It is perfectly true. If you don’t eat your broccoli you could get something called beri-beri, which is a disease that makes little blueberry-like pods grow all over your skin. Then, you will attract flocks of birds whenever you go outside.”

We and Happy the dog live in Northampton, Massachusetts. In our yard here, any hit that clears the rhododendrons is a homer.