The Short Story of Me

I think it started when they moved me up into the junior American Lit. class.  I sat behind a boy with winged Duran Duran hair, eyeliner, and his father’s old white dress shirt buttoned over cargo pants and combat boots.  God bless our teacher, Mrs. McDonald, but she lost every paper we ever turned in.  She never believed the boy in front of me though. 

That bothers me to this day.  I graduated from and taught in the sprawling suburban school districts of the Midwest, observing many more instances like this, of young people negated by the veneer referred to as “a tradition of excellence” or some similar tag line.

But neighborhoods named after the trees cut down to build them, where college acceptances are broadcast across the chests of fleece-lined sweatshirts, these places have an underbelly.  And I am somewhat voyeuristic about what really goes on.  Where we prefer to politely turn back to our manicured lives, I poke at things. 

People talk about kids who fall through the cracks.  Those are the kids I write about, the ones who –whether or not they know it or you’d expect it—live their lives very close to the cracks in these perfect towns.

The Easy to Skim Version

     More Chinese, short story, Mei Magazine, 2011
     Dark Room, play, Paul Green Playwrights National Competition Finalist, 2000
     NCTE Database of Rationales for Challenged Books, 1998

Educational Experience
     M.A. Educational Theatre, New York University, New York
          August 1998, GPA 4.0/4.0
     B.S. Communications Education, Miami University, Oxford, OH
          May 1994, GPA 3.9/4.0
     Teaching Certification:
          English, Speech, Communications (7-12), Reading (K-12), Gifted-Talented (K-12)

Current Projects
     Young Adult Novels:  GHOSTWRITERS, DARK ROOM
     Short Stories:  THE LISTENER, CHINATOWN

Workshops & Conferences
     Highlights Whole Novel Workshop with Sarah Aronson, August 2015
     Fire in Fiction with Donald Maass, January 2013
     Children's Book Writing Intensive with Laurie Halse Anderson, October 2012
     Highlights Founders Workshop with Patti Lee Gauch, October 2010
     Revision 911 Workshop with Cynthea Liu, April 2010
     Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, January 2010
     Columbus Writers' Conference, August 2007
     Starting a Writing Group with Nita Sweeney, January 2007

Teaching Experience
     Freshman Language and Composition, Grade 9, 2016-2017
          Upper Arlington High School, Upper Arlington, OH
     Gifted & Talented Integrated Studies, Grades 2-5, 2012-2013
          Greensview Elementary School, Upper Arlington, OH
     Language Arts, Grades 6-7, 2001-2003
          Columbus Jewish Day School, Columbus, OH
     AP Language & Composition, Grades 9-12, 1998-2001
          Worthington Kilbourne High School, Worthington, OH
     Gifted & Talented Language Arts, Grades 7-8, 1995-1998
          McCord Middle School, Worthington, OH
     Writing-Reading Workshop, Grade 8, 1994-1995
          Norwood Middle School, Norwood, OH

     Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 2009-present
     Families with Children from China, 2005-present

My Journey as a Writer

Remember first grade with the green, sort of newsprint, lined paper and the big fat pencils?  Those were my favorite things about the old, brick, Long Island, school building where I churned out five-sentence stories.  I thought of myself as just another writer on the pastel-colored globe my teacher kept on her desk, right in there with Beverly Cleary and Shakespeare.  I mean, Mrs. Binder did have me recopy my poem, Books Can Take You Away, onto a giant piece of pink construction paper which she hung on the wall.

By the time my family moved to Ohio, I graduated from high school, and I arrived on campus at Miami University, I could write a mean five-paragraph essay.  I was very good at writing about other people’s writing.  I was, however, horrified to find I’d been closed out of The Art of the Essay and put in Creative Writing!  Thank God my professor, Steven Bauer, reintroduced me to the creative girl I’d left back in first grade.

However, by then I was convinced my calling was teaching.  I slapped a giant pencil up on my classroom wall that said: Everyone Has Something To Say.  I poured somewhat voyeuristically over the stories my students put down on paper.  I wrote with my students and instead of describing their writing back to them with phrases like awkward and vivid, I made up ways to teach them how to write.  I spent my summers studying Educational Theatre at NYU only to discover what I really loved about theatre was making up the stories.

Soon after, I found myself with a husband who kept saying, “Just write!” and a daughter adopted from China who taught me about my own neglected inner child (whose fat yellow pencils hadn’t been sharpened in years).  When I looked up, I found myself in the middle of a delayed teenage rebellion –which for me meant I wrote.  Every chance I got, I went back to East for conferences, classes, and inspiration, and when my daughter went to kindergarten I realized I had a second chance to follow my creative dreams.

Maybe because I didn’t test myself until later in life, I started writing about young people finding their voices.  Maybe because of the ways my daughter reopened me to the world, I learned to take good care of the creative young person inside myself –in essence I adopted her.  I began to seek teachers and collect friends in the warm, creative community that writes for children, I spent a lot of time tearing YA books apart to understand how stories are built, and I had my first story, More Chinese, published in the January 2011 issue of Mei Magazine.

Now with a few manuscripts in the drawer, I feel like my understanding of story is finally strong enough to give voice to the young adult experience the way I hoped to. So I’m looking for an agent, and the thought of someday having readers is exciting.  Meanwhile I’m developing a set of three companion novels about invisibility, silence, and dark places.

My high school self portrait

My high school self portrait

My classroom

My classroom

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me.
— Ray Bradbury