Stories are the way I walk through the world. The truth is, I’m trying to live as many lives as possible.
I’m an 11th generation Southerner, born and raised in South Carolina to a family of big talkers. My entire life I’ve walked a swinging bridge between an unquenchable thirst for adventure, and a necessary-as-air need to be alone, so I can write about it.
As a child I read early and wide. Also inappropriately. At ten I climbed a shelf to nab my parents’ copy of Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides because its cover looked good and worn. Anne Shirley was a friend as real as anyone in my leafy neighborhood. I tore through my poet grandmother’s Arthurian legends, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitman, taking Whitman’s urge to “sound my barbaric yawp” as serious as an oath. I had a mother who took me to the library and a father who taught me to build fires: parents who welcomed questions and let me try things.
In high school I found my people in theater, student government, and on the soccer field. Atop the lifeguard stand at my neighborhood pool, I swung my whistle and dreamed of a byline in National Geographic. I wrote a godawful novella in my biology notebook, during class. Ridiculously kind and talented public school teachers stoked my curiosity and made me feel smart and loved.
At Clemson University, where I had a rather large time, I double-majored in English and Speech & Communications Studies. I spent summers in Alaska and as a counselor at an outdoor adventure camp in the North Carolina mountains. There, I felt I’d arrived on the right planet.
After stints as a backpacking guide and newspaper reporter, I moved to Charleston, where I earned a MA in English from the College of Charleston/The Citadel. I studied in Italy, researched Shakespeare’s original sources for Romeo and Juliet, and lived on Folly Beach with my trusty 1993 Isuzu Trooper, an ancient kayak, and my black Lab.
I married a fellow camp counselor, became an adjunct professor, and finished my first historical novel, Keowee Valley. Published in 2012 and set in the Revolutionary-era Carolinas and the Cherokee country, Keowee Valley was a finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, among other awards. The late Pat Conroy endorsed the novel, which knocked me over. I still have his message saved on my phone.
I’ve been awarded a North Carolina Arts Award by the NC Arts Council, a Literary Arts Award by the Santa Fe Writers Project judged by Robert Olen Butler, fellowships to the Vermont Studio Center, from The Sun Magazine, and more, and served as Writer-in-Residence at the Montana Artists Refuge and others. My fiction, essays, and poems have appeared in Columbia College Chicago’s South Loop Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Appalachian Review, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and more. I’ve been a panelist, presenter, and workshop leader at the Southern Women Writers Conference, Dahlonega Literary Festival, Blue Ridge Bookfest, Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, and many others.
For five years, I was a columnist for Gannett with The Greenville News (SC) and the Asheville Citizen-Times (NC), where I wrote about anything on my mind, including the great outdoors, parenting, history, books, and growing up in the South. My columns appeared weekly in newspapers across the country and abroad, including USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Herald Scotland, and many more.
I’m a recovering academic who spent 13 years as a college English professor. I birthed baby girls with wild blonde hair and giant blue eyes, and I earned an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where my critical thesis considered the theories of ancestral DNA and ancestral memory. Currently, I’m a workshop leader and lecturer for hire who directs writers’ retreats at a remote lodge. For someone whose passport burns a hole in her pocket, it’s rather ironic I live with my family in the same mountains my ancestors called home.
I’d still rather be outside than anywhere else. My need for wild places and long-range views, trees, horses, and water, boots on earth and lungs full of cold air, is an ageless itch. I’m curious about too many things for one lifetime. This is why I read and write: So I don’t drive my family crazy, and so my life is as wide and deep as it is long.
My historical fiction is steeped in place: I want my readers transported. My writing plays with the idea that time is fickle and porous, and it asks what it means to be fully, audaciously human—no matter the century. Always, it sparks from a scene I can’t get out of my head. With THE MINIATURIST’S ASSISTANT, I met an early-1800s girl in an old Charleston alley on a hot summer night, who begged me to “Come back.”