Family: Married to Michael Petty, who teaches American history at Montgomery College; has a daughter, Katherine, 16, who has her own room.

Best subject in school: "I'm not sure it was a subject.

I was always a great talker. I loved to read but

I was a horrible speller and not a fast writer. Just because a subject is hard for you doesn't mean it can't become your career. Writing is still hard for me, but it's the most rewarding career for me because it involves all things that I love: research, reading, imagination, struggling to find just the right word."

Best birthday present: "In the third grade my sister Rosie surprised me with a book called 'Understood Betsy' by Dorothy Canfield Fisher. It cost 35 cents from the Scholastic Book Club. It was historical fiction and I fell in love with the idea that a fictional character could teach you so much about the real world."

Favorite book: " 'Charlotte's Web.'

I think it's the perfect book."

First thing you remember writing: "I have in my drawer an autobiography

I wrote when I was 7. I was into historical fiction even then, because in it I made up more exciting events than I had actually lived."

Valerie Tripp has helped create characters such as Kit.