Although Sandy Jones thought of herself as "a writer looking for what to write about," she had only dabbled in the craft before undertaking her first book. She had worked on her college paper and done a stint as an advertising copywriter for a North Carolina department store, but her bachelor's and master's degrees were in psychology and her first jobs in social work.
It was a mother-baby group that she started in Cockeysville and a middle-of-the-night notion that brought her to writing. "It was out of that experience of sharing with other mothers that I became convinced that whatever I said in relation to mothering and parenting was shared by other people," says Ms. Jones.
"I came up with the idea in the middle of the night, one night, to write a 'Whole Earth Catalog' that would be for parents." (She credits a high school English teacher and her late grandfather, a Georgia newspaperman, with kindling her writing career.)
When a small book publisher showed interest in her catalog, "that was just enough of a kick in the pants for me to keep doing it," she recalls. When that publisher later turned the book down, she queried five major publishers; Houghton-Mifflin took it. "I didn't have to struggle," Ms. Jones says.
Since then, she has been plugging away at her craft and her career. She is a co-founder of the Baltimore Writers' Alliance, a self-help group of 100 area writers.
"The baby-products books have been my bread and butter," with the Consumer Reports guide selling 135,000 copies, she says.
But she is always looking for those ideas.
"I write where I am," she says. And where others are going. For even back in those mother-baby discussion groups in Cockeysville, "I began to understand that I had a way of thinking out things a couple of years before they became a concept to other people.
"I feel like a translator -- translating my own experience as a mother, translating what we know in psychology and psychiatry and medicine, translating what parents share with me. Trying to coordinate all these threads together in a way that helps parents, making it all flowing and practical at the same time."