About the writer…
I grew up in Concord, New Hampshire, the third of four girls. After high school I went to the University of Vermont, where I majored in English, and then I went on to law school, graduating from Hastings College of the Law in 1979.
My writing life beckons
My first and only job as a lawyer was with the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice, in Washington, DC. Every morning I rose at six to get in an hour of writing before going to work. Summer vacations I spent at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, studying with John Irving and John Gardner. Eventually I saved enough money for a sabbatical, and when my husband got a job teaching in Seattle, I quit.
Books and children
Books and children have always seemed to coincide for me: My first novel, Her Native Colors, was published in 1986 – within a week of the birth of my son. Monoosook Valley followed quickly, as did the birth of twin daughters. All this more or less put my writing on the back burner as we adjusted to life with three small children and a move to Colorado. But I did manage to write – and rewrite, many times – another novel during those years, and Crazy As Chocolate was finally published by MacAdam/Cage in 2002.
On making a living as a writer
“Still filing Section C losses.” That’s what I wrote on, oh, probably 15 years’ worth of holiday cards. It’s ridiculously tough making real money as a writer. Years ago at Bread Loaf, John Gardner had this advice: “Find someone to mooch off.” I’ve always been unbelievably lucky to have a husband who’s in academia. There’s no way I would have continued writing, if not for him.
My break came with The Abortionist’s Daughter. Switching agents brought me a healthy 2-book contract with Knopf - although when you averaged the numbers out over the years, my pay probably came to about a nickel an hour. But a big piece of luck fell in my lap in the summer of 2006, when England’s Richard and Judy Show chose my book as one of its Summer Reads. Richard and Judy are the UK equivalent of Oprah. And so suddenly my book was on the UK bestseller list for a few months, and royalty statements got turned upside down. Colorado Humanities chose my most recent novel, Go Ask Fannie, as the winner of their 2019 Colorado Book Award in General Fiction.
But everything runs in cycles. There’s never been any link between the quality of writing and one’s income as a writer, and you can’t go into it with high expectations. If you make money, great. If you don’t, you’re in extremely good company.
Besides writing, I like to hike with my dog, play with watercolor, and goof around at the dinner table with my family. I’m passionate about the Grand Canyon, having gone down the Colorado River twice (one time as a guide’s assistant). Last but not least, I crave quiet reading time.