Born: May 2, 1980 in Cincinnati, Ohio. My parents were being evicted from their apartment on the day I was born, for failure to pay their rent. My mother likes to say that my father went to the racetrack that day, to gamble and drink, while she went to the hospital. After I was born, my parents broke up for a while, about a year, while my mom went to Colorado with me, and my dad went to Texas. Then my dad broke his leg, and my mother’s mother paid his hospital bills. My parents were reunited in Texas and moved to Illinois. In the next eight years, they had five more children, four boys and a girl.
Grew up: In Shelbyville and Sullivan, Illinois, two small towns in central Illinois. My mother didn’t work, and my father worked sporadically, losing jobs frequently to alcoholism and also landing in jail. By 1990, my parents separated in an on-again, off-again (but mostly off-again) relationship, finally divorcing in 1992. Throughout my early childhood, there were a lot of fights between them, a lot of holes put in walls, broken dishes, broken TVs, nights when I slept with my siblings under my bed. My brothers and sister called me Mom growing up, sometimes correcting themselves, sometimes not.
Homes: Were always provided by my grandmother, since my family lived on welfare and could not afford rent. One of my strongest memories of my childhood is how often the kitchen was empty. I’d always split the last thing we had in the fridge with my siblings, like a stick of butter or a jar of mustard, which we’d eat with our fingers, and then there would be nothing left. My hungriest days all came before I turned nine, and I found myself doing strange things with my oldest two brothers because we were so hungry. We ate insects and slugs, even swallowed pebbles. I envy children who grow up with chickens, since they can collect eggs in the winter. In the winter in Illinois, the world was covered in snow. No insects and slugs, only pebbles.
Summers: My grandmother and my mother’s older half-brother, my Uncle John, would take our family to Silverton, Colorado, sometimes for the summer. (My mother’s father had bought a house in Silverton in 1959, so these summer trips were something my mother had grown up doing as well.) I know my family spent the summers of 1987 and 1994 in Colorado, and I know there were other years that we did this, I just can’t remember the dates. My grandmother died in 1996, and she left the house in Silverton to my uncle. My mother had a love-hate relationship with her brother, and even though she raised me to be scared of Uncle John, by the time I was twelve, I stopped fearing my uncle and really started to love him. I spent a month alone in Silverton with him in June of 1997 before my mother and siblings joined us. After my father died in 2001, Uncle John became a father-figure to my family.
My father: Loved his family, and had moments in life when he was stronger than his drinking, but I have so many memories of him passed out on the floor. After 1992, I saw less and less of him, and he drifted farther and farther away. I kept close contact with him by phone, as I had a knack for tracking him down through his buddies, but by 2001, he was homeless and living on a riverbank outside Cincinnati. A few days after my last conversation with him, on July 2, he went for a swim across the river and drowned. Another homeless man on the riverbank reported the accident. It took a few days for search and rescue to locate my father’s body, and after sitting in the river that long, his body was unfit for an open-casket funeral. His mother left New Jersey (where my dad had been raised) to come to Cincinnati for the cremation and service.
High School: After my parents’ divorce, my mom had a hard time. She said that Charles Schulz, who created the comic strip Peanuts, was speaking to her through the newspaper. She also said that the actor Michael Keaton was her lover. There were long periods of time when she really struggled to get through a day, and her family sent her away for treatment in a ward on two different occasions. Every day of my adolescence, my mother told me she hated living in Illinois. By the time my senior year of high school began, my mom left me and my siblings alone for three months, and drove to Silverton, Colorado, in search of happiness. To make sure my family wasn’t put into foster care, my siblings and I lived in a farmhouse in a different town than where we went to school. Around Christmastime of 1997, my mother found a new boyfriend and brought him to Illinois for a few weeks, and then they left again. They went back to Colorado so she could have some more time being happy and free. In March my senior year, my mother came back to Illinois and said it was time for everyone to move to Colorado. I helped my siblings pack up and move, but then I stayed alone in Illinois for two more months so I could finish my senior year and graduate.
Learned: That life was a madhouse I struggled to make sense of. I played sports (track, basketball, softball, volleyball), performed in show choir, acted in plays, took care of my family, got straight-As. In the midst of my senior year, while I was doing nothing but trying to take care of my siblings, I bought a book about colleges on a whim, and researched the schools I liked and thought I could apply to. I asked my Uncle John for the money to pay the application fees. Some of my teachers refused to write letters of recommendation for me, because they said I was too poor to go to college, but I found other teachers who would. I knew I didn’t have the money for college, so I don’t know what really drove me to go to so much trouble to apply. I thought I was joining the Army right after high school. I took all the tests for the Unites States Army, including the physical and the exams, and did everything but the swearing-in ceremony before leaving for basic training. Then I received an acceptance letter to college and more than $100,000.00 in scholarship money, and I ended up at a beautiful liberal arts university instead.
Studied abroad: In India my fall semester of my senior year. After the terrorist attacks on September 11, however, my abroad program was cancelled after only five weeks, and I found myself back on campus again. This was one of the most depressing times of my life, for so many reasons. I thought I wanted to work for the State Department after I graduated, but George W. Bush fired so many foreign service workers during his term that I gave up on that plan. I was so stressed about money, and so tired of having none, that when I gave up on the foreign service, I gave up on graduate school as well. My father had died shortly before the attacks, and I had a lot of personal problems that spun out of that grief. I felt hopeless.
Graduated: From Saint Lawrence University, in upstate New York, in May 2002 with a bachelor’s degree.
Moved: Back to Silverton, Colorado, to help my family. They lived in my uncle’s house, and Uncle John lived there with them in the summers. In 2002, my youngest brother and sister needed to change schools, so they lived with me for a year in Durango, Colorado, where they both graduated from high school in the coming years.
Met my husband: In Silverton in July 2002, two months after I graduated from college. Greg Stacy lived in Durango at the time, but he was working in Silverton that summer. More than a year later, I moved to Ouray, Colorado, to live with him there after taking care of my siblings. We lived in Ouray for eight and a half years, where we had our wedding ceremony in 2006. We moved back to Durango in the summer of 2011.
My husband’s children: Are all older than me. His youngest daughter took a trip to northern India with me in the summer of 2008. I had always promised myself I would go back to India one day, and that summer, I made it happen.
Worked: A lot of low-wage jobs after college. Silverton and Ouray are tourist towns with populations of less than 1,000, and good positions are often hard to come by. At one point in time, I had five different jobs, physically demanding work that exhausted my body as well as my mind. I bussed tables, worked as a hostess and waitress, worked front desk at a hotel, washed dishes, worked at the Ouray hot springs pool, worked in parks maintenance, etc. My days would start at 5 a.m. and end after midnight. When I would wake in the morning and get in the shower, my feet would hurt so much from the day before that I would have to shower sitting down, trying not to cry in pain because my feet were so sore. One of my jobs in Ouray was running a summer youth program, a service that turned into an after-school program during the school year, and this job eventually helped me become a first grade teacher at the public school. I taught first grade for four and a half years, and then I taught high school social studies (geography, world history, U.S. history, AP U.S. history, economics, and government) for one year. My years teaching in public school were my best working years, as life is much easier when you only have one job.
Started writing: While I was working in parks maintenance in Ouray. My very first character, Timberline, who is in my first book, came into my head while I was mopping the floor at the community center. When I wasn’t too tired, sometimes I would scribble a few words about her, sort of like writing poetry, and it was another year before I realized she was a character in a story. By the time I started teaching first grade, I was writing during any free second I had, which meant on the holidays, late at night, or very early in the morning.
Moved to Durango: When my husband was promoted. He works for CDOT, the Colorado Department of Transportation, as a supervisor. He’s also very good at avalanche mitigation and blowing up boulders that land on the road. After we moved, I decided I wanted to write full time, so I did not renew my teacher’s license to teach in Durango. I became a full time writer instead.
Children and pets: My husband and I have no children or pets, but so many of our family members live in the area, we are never far from babies, puppies, kitties, you name it. We spend a lot of time with our families.
Queried: More than two hundred agents with The Etiquette of Wolves as well as Love and Student Loans and Other Big Problems. I was rejected by everyone, so I’m extremely grateful that I live in the age of self-publishing.
Cared for: My Uncle John in the fall of 2012, while he was dying of pancreatic cancer. He lived for only three months after the tumor was found on his pancreas, as the cancer had already spread through his body and consumed parts of his spine. Though my uncle died in November, this chapter of my life hasn’t ended, as he left his estate in arrears, and I am the person dealing with probate. Sometimes the time-consuming work this involves leaves me breathless and panicky, and then I remind myself that everything will be more or less okay in the end, even if the probate case is open for more than three years.
Currently: Overseeing my uncle’s sealant factory in Sullivan, Illinois. AB Seals, Inc. impregnates metal castings as well as produces seal.
Trying: To make sure my uncle’s mortgage on his house in Silverton gets paid off. This is the home where my mother has lived since 1998, and two of my brothers and my sister live with her. My uncle died owing $89,000.00 on this house, which he left in my name, a debt which is now down to $86,000.00. I dream of the day when I can pay off this debt and keep the house safe for my family.
Love: To travel and spend time with my friends. I’d like to spend a year in Turkey to write a screenplay, and live for several months in Israel working on a literary novel, and write a contemporary commercial novel set in the French Riviera.