Welcome to my website! I’m Mary Vander Plas, and I write books for kids. While some people call me MVP, Nonna, or Meemaw, you can simply call me Mary. I’ve had several nicknames throughout my life and that helped plant the seed for my first book, Call Me Calvin.
My publishing journey began after my youngest son left for college. I found myself with free time to explore my creativity through writing. I told myself: “It’s going to be fun and easy; picture books are so cute!” But I soon discovered that creativity was just one ingredient in the recipe for writing children’s books. I spent years learning the craft while stumbling forward through failure and rejection. I kept at it and grew as a writer. And guess what? Along the course of my writing adventure, I met some of the best people I know.
In June of 2023, my debut picture book was released. Call Me Calvin is about a little boy with big feelings. I hope you check it out! I love writing picture book manuscripts, but I also have a slightly spooky, mysterious chapter book series rolling around in my head…and scribbled down on the back of receipts in my purse…and chaotically dictated into a notes app on my phone. Stay tuned!
I grew up in a big family of eight kids, all born within a span of ten years (yes, that includes a set of twins!). We lived on a farm in east central Wisconsin with a variety of cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, geese, turkeys, ducks, turkey ducks (that’s not a typo), guinea hens, cats, dogs, and a llama named Tony. We grew vegetables…LOTS of vegetables, which we sold to canning companies and at a roadside stand. It was hard work. Our sweet corn became somewhat famous among people traveling past us each year toward their summer vacation destinations. I always felt a little jealous as they drove up to the Northwoods of Wisconsin with their coolers, suitcases, and boats. But now I live there! Although I don’t grow vegetables anymore, I enjoy visiting the local farmers market to buy them from hardworking gardeners.
- Joke books were my favorite books when I was a kid. Now my favorites include historical fiction, and of course all kinds of picture books and chapter books.
- My favorite childhood snacks were onion and garlic potato chips and Saltines with butter. These days, I especially love treats like s’mores over a campfire, dark chocolate, and movie theater popcorn. Yum!
- Like most kids, I had some cavities growing up. Mine were thanks to a perfect storm of three things: this commercial, inexpensive Tootsie Pops, and impatience.
- I’m a dog person and currently have a Cavapoo named Gatsby and a Newfypoo named Norman. I also have two granddogs, Winston and Ahsoka.
- I can make balloon animals. Poodles are my favorite.
- We have three adult children, a son-in-law, and two beautiful grandkids.
- I love fishing, particularly for musky and bass. I also like to paddleboard, read, and am thinking about becoming a rock tumbler, which seems like a fun hobby. There is an endless supply of rocks where I live! If you know anything about this and would like to share your wisdom, feel free to send me a message.
- In the Northwoods of Wisconsin where my husband and I live, we’re surrounded by eagles, loons, ducks, deer, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, fish, otters, turtles, black bears, wolves, and sasquatches. Although we only see two of the last three occasionally, and one never.
- Visit Utqiagvik, Alaska, for a couple of weeks during the two months of darkness known as Polar Night. While there, I’d love to do school visits and learn about the history and culture of the city and its people.
- Go on a Boundary Waters canoe and fishing trip on the border of Minnesota and Canada.
- Visit Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Thunderstorms, homemade pie, and winter snowfalls that look like a snow globe
Hot weather, amusement park rides, and pumpkin spice drinks