I read Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy about Michelangelo when I was twelve. At the same time, I was listening to recordings of Robert Frost reciting his poems. The youngest of four, I was already passionate about the works of writers whom I had heard of but didn’t know very well.
I grew up in Elizabeth, NJ, in a single-parent household just outside New York City and went to an all-girls public high school. I frequently cut class and took the bus into the city to go to the Museum of Modern Art and the Met. My imagination lived and died in the colors and shapes of those dimly lit galleries and the Van Goghs, Monets, Rembrandts and Picassos that lived on those walls.
I started writing poetry and also drawing. When I applied to college, with holes in a transcript and a record of truancy, the director of admissions at Brown called to ask, “Why should we take a chance on you?” I’m not sure I had a good answer, but they invited me to come anyway. It was a turning point in my life, and I no longer tried to hide the fact that I wrote poetry.
In my twenties, I worked part-time doing anything from demonstrating vacuum cleaners to speed typing to editing a medical magazine–in order to continue to write seriously. I was rewarded with a Stegner Fellowship to Stanford, followed by being named a PEN Discovery and a Ploughshares Discovery. My sentences got longer and I moved from poetry to fiction. I wrote my first novel, Cave Paintings.
In addition to several recent awards to attend conferences and residencies, I received the 2019 New Letters Publication Award, received honorable mention from Glimmer Train, and have published fiction, poetry, and essays in New Letters, Ploughshares, Tin House, Story Quarterly, The Quarterly, Poetry Northwest, the Boston Globe Magazine, Post Road and others. My novel, What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me, was a 2019 finalist for several literary competitions. The first chapter was a finalist for a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant, and received honorable mention from Arch St. Press.
A chance encounter with a student representing Amnesty International in Harvard Square, Cambridge, where I’ve lived for many years, led me to begin a documentary photography project, “Putting Faces on the Unimaginable: Portraits and Interviews With Former Prisoners of Conscience,” for which I interviewed and photographed fifteen people who had been political prisoners in countries all over the world. The work was exhibited at Harvard’s Fogg Museum. Meeting survivors of torture and imprisonment, and hearing their stories, changed my life, brought me deeper humility, and led to the writing of my novel, What Ben Franklin Would Have Told Me.
Besides the novel, I’m completing a collection of short stories, Lesser Saints.
I’m also a painter and printmaker.