Most of my earliest memories are of stories.
When I think back to kidhood, I remember campfire stories and bedtime stories, whispered stories and family stories, writing stories and reading stories. I collected them like other 90s kids collected baseball cards or Beanie Babies (okay, maybe I collected those, too).
My mom was my first writing teacher. When I was small, she and I would play a game. I would give her three things (blueberries, a panda bear, and a snowy forest, say) and she would connect them into a story. That was my first lesson in storycrafting: how to weave things together that don’t seem to have any kind of connection.
Nature, too, was one of my earliest teachers. I grew up in small town North Carolina, where I was lucky enough to have lots of trees and ponds and creeks to roam through. I named my backyard Narbithia after Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia and C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. I wanted the magic I had found as a reader in Narnia, and the narrative agency that Leslie had in Terabithia. So I took what I loved best about each book and turned my backyard into what Jay Griffith calls a Kith, that “first landscape which we know as children” which seeps into us, inspires us, nurtures us, consoles us and teaches us, and to which we return over and over again in our later lives. I return there often when I’m dreaming up stories.
My favorite writing buddy.
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As a child and a young adult, I sought out any opportunity I could find to make myself a better writer. I wrote terrible stories and entered them into contests which I inevitably lost. I spent summers at Duke Young Writers Camp, which I highly recommend to any aspiring authors out there. I took poetry lessons after school while other kids were hanging out at the mall (okay, so technically my lessons were at the Barnes & Noble in the mall, too). Most importantly, I felt deeply and often, I took risks, and I made a fool out of myself. (Maybe some writers learn how to write without doing those things, but I have no idea how.) I became a sponge for good stories, some of which are still hiding in my brain jungle, waiting for the right time to jump back out at me.
After moving cross country to go to Pomona College (chirp, chirp!), I moved back again to be a teacher in Washington, D.C., where I worked with kids who changed my life in incredible ways, who became my teachers as well as my students. During my summers “off,” I attended an MFA program in Children’s Literature at Hollins University.
After four years in D.C., it was time for a new adventure, so my husband and I packed up our things, including our rescue dog, Bella, and moved across the Atlantic to Cambridge, England. It was there that I wrote Ethan, in a tiny office in a small English village, while I waited for my work visa to come through. Life’s funny that way.
I now live with my family in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I am squirreled away, working on my next novel.