Mary Morton Cowan, Children's Author

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A most unlikely author ...

    I was born in Portland, Maine, and grew up in nearby Westbrook  – the middle of three children! 

Us three Morton children    For most of my school years I was a math student, dreaming of becoming an architect. I collected house plans, drew many myself, and built hundreds of miniature houses, using every block in the toy box.  I was a sophomore at Bates College before I shifted my major to literature and music.

    After my college graduation, I married a classmate and moved away from Maine – to Rochester, New York. Our two children grew up there. Several years ago we moved back to Maine. Our daughter and her family now live in Maryland, and our son lives in Maine with his family. We have four grandchildren, who loved to be read to when they were very young – lucky for me, because one of my favorite activities was reading to them.

    In fact, as early as I can remember, I loved reading. Often, on my walk home from school, I stopped at the public library and lugged home piles of books. Want to know some of my favorites?

    My father lived much of his childhood in a logging camp. He loved the out-of-doors and shared that with us. Many summer days, when Dad got home from work at the paper mill, we tied our canoe onto the top of the car, drove to some river (there are many in Maine!), and paddled to a picnic spot somewhere along the shore.

    When I was very young, I learned to identify birds, animal tracks, and all kinds of fun woodsy stuff. At YWCA summer camp, I loved nature crafts. Once I built a log hut by “lashing” – that’s tying logs together with rope.

    Skiing has long been our family’s favorite sport! I was put on skis and headed downhill when I was about four years old. My brother was already zooming. He started before he was two!

In my Brownie uniformAs a kid, I dragged my little sister and one or two friends into all manner of projects. I produced plays for the neighborhood kids – always giving myself a good part, naturally. Our stage was a ping-pong table in the cellar. Major productions, I want you to know. "The Three Billy Goats' Gruff" was our biggest success.

    I began taking swimming lessons when I was about seven. A year or so later, I joined a Brownie troop and I started taking piano lessons. My brother and sister played the piano too. For several years, we played trios in our recitals. We barely fit onto the piano bench! My sister sat, squished, in the middle. My brother played the low notes, and I was at the high end. I cannot remember what the music sounded like, but we sure bumped elbows!

    In high school and college I took pipe organ lessons – and loved it! Since then, I have played for hundreds of church services, a recital or two, and have taught piano and organ students. (I have even written some organ music, but I've never published any of it!)

My mother, sister, and me with Cindy    We had a wonderful playhouse in our backyard, which was the home of my “BKTA” club. Can you guess what BKTA means? 

    When I was little, we had a cocker spaniel for a short time. It was "Cindy," the Newfoundland dog, who was so special. You know – those big black bundles of fur that look like bears! Cindy went everywhere with me, winter and summer. I put my father's old pony saddle on her, and gave my teddy bear rides around the yard. 

    I always wanted a pony like my father had when he was little, but I lived in a small city, not in a logging camp! I could ride my bike to a nearby riding stable, so I rode horseback a lot.

Puppy at 6 weeks    When my son and daughter were little, we adopted a puppy. "Ginger" was just six weeks old in this picture. She lived almost 14 years! Now I enjoy my grandchildren's dogs.

    My husband and I live near the coast, north of Portland, Maine. For years, we lived by Sebago Lake, where we enjoyed watching lots of wildlife in the woods behind our house. Deer, squirrels, chipmunks, wild turkeys, raccoons, and foxes. And guess who occasionally meandered through the back yard, on his way down to the lake for a swim? Look and see! Of course, we had many birds at our feeders. The chickadee is my favorite.

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