Verla Kay is a native Californian who grew up in a sleepy little town called Watsonville. Located right next to the
surfing town of Santa Cruz, it nestles between San Francisco and Monterey and enjoys some of the most beautiful scenery and weather in the world. It was heavily agricultural when Verla was a child. With a crop duster father and a stay-at-home domestic mother, one older sister and one younger brother, Verla's early life seemed ideal - and in many ways it was. But Verla had a hard time making friends and spent most of her younger years as a very lonely child. She spent many hours reading books and daydreaming about friends and love and the happiness that she prayed would someday be hers.
That happiness came to her when she met her future husband, Terry. It was love at first sight for both of them and after a rocky courtship, they were married on Easter Sunday the spring following their graduation from high school. For the first fifteen years, their marriage was anything but ideal, but through sheer stubborness and determination, they made a success of it and their marriage survived despite many difficult times. During these rocky years, they had four wonderful children - three boys and one girl.
Verla worked at many odd jobs through the years to help make ends meet. But her primary goal was to stay at home and take care of her children, so most of the jobs she took were temporary ones or jobs she could do from home and some of them were quite interesting.
She tried picking chives in the fields, but that job only lasted two weeks. The decision to stay at home and care for her own children was made very quickly after she discovered that her first paycheck was less than what she owed to her babysitter!
One of the most fun and profitable jobs Verla ever had was when she worked for
House of Lloyd selling toys and gifts at home parties. This was a job she could do while (mostly) staying at home with her children and she earned hundreds of free toys and gifts for her family and seven free trips to exotic places around the world through her group sales as a District Manager.
result, she and her husband, Terry, have been to Bogota, Columbia and Rio de Janerio, Brazil in South America. Verla went alone to Israel and both of them toured Portugal in Europe. They enjoyed Hawaii and a cruise to Alaska together. The last trip she earned was to Greece and due to a severe case of bronchitis, she couldn't go, so she sent Terry without her. He says that cruising the Greek Isles with 600 women (while his wife was at home) was a wonderful experience - and Verla believes him!
Becoming a Writer
It wasn't until Terry and Verla had moved their family to Nevada and purchased a laundromat in Carson City, that she found herself thinking about becoming a writer. One of their regular customers was a woman who was a successful freelance writer for magazines. She looked at some of Verla's writing and was constantly encouraging Verla to become a writer, too. The seed had been sown. They lived in Carson City for three years, then the call of the ocean breezes and tall redwoods (and the need for a better income for their growing family) became too strong and they moved back to Santa Cruz.
next few years, Verla ran a licensed daycare from her home. Snaps 'N Snails Daycare catered to six children at a time - most of the children were between five months and three years old. While she read books to the children, Verla couldn't stop thinking about writing stories of her own.
Finally, the call to write became too strong and she signed up for a correspondence course through the Institute of Children's Literature. During the next two years, she studied and practiced and learned what it took to write and sell stories for children. Later, Verla became an instructor for the Institute -- helping other new writers to learn what she had learned. She worked for them for three years, phasing out at the end of 2008, in order to have more time to write her own stories.
After selling two short stories, one to Turtle Magazine and one to Humpty Dumpty's Magazine, one of her picture book manuscripts was pulled from the slush pile at Putnam Books and she finally became a real author.
It was while Verla was working as a desk clerk in a local motel that she found herself checking in a very special couple
one night. While chatting with the people, some things she said about her writing triggered events that eventually led to her gaining a terrific agent in New York. She and her agent have been happily working together now for over sixteen wonderful years.
Since April of 1997, Verla has been staying home, working full time on her writing. She currently has eleven books sold. Ten of them are with the Penguin-Putnam Group and one is with Tricycle Press. Six of her books (Gold Fever, Covered Wagons Bumpy Trails, Tattered Sails, Iron Horses, and Rough Tough Charley and her newest book just released in May of 2010, Whatever Happened to the Pony Express?) can be purchased through any bookstore, Three are OP -- out of print -- (Homespun Sarah, Broken Feather and Orphan Train) and can only be purchased through Verla and two - Hornbooks & Inkwells (summer 2011) and Drummer Boy (2012) are "in the works."
Today and Beyond
Verla and Terry's children are all grown now, and are each leading productive lives on their own. Their three sons are all single, and their only daughter, Portia, is happily married and has given Terry and Verla four incredibly wonderful grandchildren. The oldest, Kristyn, presented them with their first great grandchild (a beautiful, incredible little boy) in September of 2008.
Today Verla considers her life to be idyllic. She lives with her husband and their two gorgeous cats, FruBear and Heidi.
(FruBear pictured. Her half-sister, Heidi, is shy, hence her name, so she isn’t in the picture.) Verla spends many contented hours in front of her computer screen, thinking, plotting, planning and writing what she hopes will be wonderful books - and spending many more hours working with her website, which has become a very large entity. Her message board page (alone) currently gets around one million hits each month!
Verla enjoys boating and fishing, reading, writing, cooking (but NOT cleaning house!) and games and puzzles of all sorts -- especially Pinochle and Puzzle Pirates. She spent many happy hours panning for gold with her husband in the hills of Sonora (before they moved to the state of Washington,) and she is very proud of a third-place Gold-Panning Competition trophy she won at the Tuolumne county fair in 1994. She is addicted to Puzzle Pirates -- an on-line puzzling pirate game. It's her favorite computer game. She loves all types of puzzle-type games, and when she is not writing, responding to e-mails or working on her website, she spends many enjoyable hours puzzling her way through her pirate game or one of the other games on her computer.
But her favorite pastime is doing author talks.
Verla loves to do presentations to children at schools, inspiring them to read, write, and revise what they have written so that their stories are the very best they can be. She also loves talking to adults at conferences and workshops about writing, sharing many of the tips and skills about writing and marketing stories that she has struggled to learn through the years. And of course, she also loves to travel, so bringing her in for talks, even though it may be located far away from her home state of Washington, is never a problem for her.
What the future may bring is always a mystery, but Verla is convinced that the years to come will be the most exciting, the most happy,
that she and Terry have yet experienced. And only time will tell if she is correct in her assessment of the future. In the meantime, she continues to write for children and loves every minute of her life. (Well, every minute except those she spends fighting with her computer when she’s trying to do something and computer does what she “tells” it to do instead of what she “wants” it to do!)