“Where did your name come from?” It’s a question I’ve heard as long as I can remember. The answer is that my mom and dad made it up, back when I was born in Memphis, Tennessee. As they tell the story, they took “M-a-r” from Marie, which is my mother’s name, and “f-e” from Ferguson, our family name, and put it together to make “Marfe.” It’s pronounced Mar-FAYE. (Click here to hear me say it.) When I started studying French in 8th grade, I learned that an acute accent mark (a little slash mark) over an “e” indicates the vowel should be pronounced “ay.” I popped one over my own “e” and became “Marfé.” So there’s a little bit of self-invention in my name, too.
I’ve always loved to read and be read to. One of my earliest memories is of my mother reading Bambi to my little sister Karen and me. The three of us cried together at the sad parts. When I got a little older my parents gave us a subscription to Reader’s Digest Best Loved Books for Young Readers. A new volume arrived by mail every couple of months, and each volume contained condensed versions of four or five books. I can still remember how excited I was when a new volume arrived. I loved opening the box, inhaling that enticing new book smell, and flipping through the pages before deciding which story to read first. The series introduced me to Pride and Prejudice, Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island, and many more great books. It was a terrific gift. Three other awesome gifts from my parents: 1.) A piano. 2.) Piano lessons. 3.) My baby sister, Sherri, who was born when I was eight.
I went to Duke University, where I majored in English and sang with the Chapel Choir. After graduation, I moved to New York to take a job as an editorial assistant in the children’s book department of a publishing company called Charles Scribner’s Sons. Later that year I met the wonderful man who became my husband. Eventually we moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where I worked first as a copy editor and then as a staff writer for Time-Life Books. After our children, Allison and David, were born, I started working from home as a freelance writer. I focused on writing nonfiction children’s books, and I’ve been doing that ever since.
Besides researching and writing my own books, I also do some freelance editing for National Geographic. I read a lot, sing with the Alexandria Choral Society, and go on long walks every day with my dog, a big sweetie-pie named Hucksley. During baseball season I root for the Washington Nationals. I like to hike in the mountains, and I love to cook for family and friends and then sit around the table with them, eating and laughing and sharing stories.