My friend Alison has known me since we were both six years old. She now lives in Cary, North Carolina, but in the 1960s, when we were in grammar school, we lived near each other in a section of Columbia, South Carolina known as Forrest Lake. Alison and I spent much of our time on or around the water - in a rowboat (with my dog, Grinch, as our companion) or knee-deep on the shoreline catching minnows. And, just like the narrator of my novel, MISS DREAMSVILLE, we rescued turtles that crossed the road over a causeway adjacent to my house. Some of them were snapping turtles and if we'd had a lick of sense we would have realized they were dangerous - as were the cars that whizzed right past us. No wonder we kept this little hobby a secret from our mothers. Then, after a teacher read aloud from THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN, I was obsessed with the idea of building a raft. (It sank.) Our lake was really just a large pond, but in our eyes it could have been the Mississippi River in all its glory.