I bet you're wondering. . .
Who are you?
I'm Cindy Chambers Johnson, author of Russell Wrestles the Relatives (Aladdin, 2018). Through my writing, I hope to bring smiles to the faces of my readers with humor, kindness and "I never knew that!" moments.
As a kid, my favorite things were camping, and listening to the grown-ups tell family stories. I studied biology so I could become a park ranger and camp full-time, but my first genetics class steered me down the path of genetic counseling, which is all about family stories. I no longer work as a genetic counselor, but I'm still all about stories. I can hardly believe I get to write stories as my job!
Where I’ve Lived: I was born and grew up in Hutchinson, Kansas. Fondly called “Hutch” by its residents, it is the home of Carey and Morton salt, The Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, The Kansas State Fair, The National Junior College Athletic Association basketball tournaments, and the Most Excellent Hutchinson Public Library. Since then, I’ve lived in Hays, Kansas; Denton, Texas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Stockton, California; St. Louis, Missouri and Des Moines, Iowa.
Where I Went to School: I walked to grade school at Morgan and Valley Pride Elementary Schools in Hutch, then rode a bus to Nickerson High School. After high school, I attended Hutchinson Community College for two years, then earned my bachelor of science in biology at Fort Hays State University. I just couldn’t get enough school, so I went on for my master of science degree in human genetics at North Texas State University. I also completed the “Writing for Children and Teenagers” course through the Institute of Children’s Literature.
Jobs I’ve Held: Taco Slinger – I worked at a local fast-food taco joint as a teenager. The manager left two teens alone to man the restaurant, clean up and hide the money in the lettuce bin. We were only robbed once during my shift.
Wheat Specialist – I worked for Pioneer Seed Company during college. I rouged (meaning to walk through endless fields of wheat in over 100-degree temperatures pulling out the wheat plants that don’t belong. Usually they were tall, but sometimes they were beardless). The next summer I graduated to the greenhouse where I emasculated wheat for breeding by cutting open each spike and pulling out the anthers with tweezers.
Genetic Counselor – Genetic Counselors meet with people who are concerned about a hereditary disease in their family, take a family history, and talk with them about the chance the disease could affect them or their children and any genetic testing available.
A Few of my Favorite Things: I have to preface this by saying that I hate the concept of picking a favorite, because I have different favorites at different times and also because I know I am going to leave something out. So consider all of the lists below as incomplete works in progress.
Books I've Loved: As a kid, some of my favorite books were THE BOY WHO ATE FLOWERS by Nancy Sherman and illustrated by Nancy Carroll, KATY DID by Jean Conder Soule, illustrated by Aliki and the Winnie the Pooh books. Other favorites were the Betsy books, by Carolyn Haywood, Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Pigglewiggle books, THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster and FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS. BASIL E. FRANKWEILER by E.L. Konigsburg. I loved mysteries (and still do), especially Trixie Belden and The Happy Hollisters. As a teenager, I loved M.E. Kerr’s books, particularly THE SON OF SOMEONE FAMOUS and Ray Bradbury’s DANDELION WINE and THE ILLUSTRATED MAN. Ok, there are so many more, and I haven’t even started on the books I’ve loved as a grown-up.
Food you can use to bribe me: Anything Mexican, my grandma’s roast beef and orange potatoes, my nanaw’s homemade pickles (but not the hairy okra ones), chicken piccata, and peanut butter and pickles on a saltine. OH! and RO*TEL dip.
Places I Love: The Hutchinson Public Library, the Ozarks (especially Buffalo National River), Venice, my grandma’s farm, the first branch in the big tree by the trash bins at Valley Pride.