The True Story of How I Began and What Happened Next

I was born in a trailer in the mountains of southern New Mexico.

By my sixth birthday, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wanted to be a writer! I was fascinated by the sound of words, the sweep of story. I wanted to make word magic and tuck it inside the covers of a book. This would prove to be difficult, as a wayward fairy (apparently not invited to my christening!) blessed me with dyslexia and dysgraphia topped with a dollop of autism spectrum disorder. Unaware of the academic and social trouble ahead, I set off to have an exciting childhood. 

I tracked caribou and arctic wolves across my family’s homestead in Alaska, caught tiny tree frogs in the swamps and rain forests of the Pacific Northwest, and chased dust devils and rattlesnakes across the high desert of New Mexico.

I escaped electrocution when a typhoon blew power lines down over yet another trailer in a swamp in Washington state, and evaded drowning when a station wagon spun out of control onto thin lake ice in Alaska. Most of the bullets missed, and none of the incidents with bears, snakes, wolves, or angry moose were fatal. Life was exciting! 

Sadly, school was not. It was painful. I had trouble reading, and spelling was impossible. I couldn’t make all the stories inside me legible to other people. So, I told them to my dogs, cats, birds, and bugs instead. 

School became even more difficult in the 9th grade. I had figured out methods for reading, but taking notes by hand was an impossibility. Coupled with other dark chaos in my life*, it was too much. I dropped out. I spent the next 8 years moving from place to place and working as a ranch hand, a wood cutter, a lumberjack, a census taker, a wrangler for wilderness guides, and an archeological surveyor. And working hard to find the tools and work-arounds I needed to send my stories into the world.

And I found them! I did! Computers, spell checkers and a friend who believed me when I said I was a writer and was willing to read every word before I submitted it. Reader, I married him on the spot.

Now, I am Mom to my children, Grimm to my grandchildren, and a fearless defender of bugs and other beasties. When I am not writing I hunt dinosaurs with my husband through the Ojito Wilderness. He believes I will find one.

*I talk about that chaos in Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves (True Stories), edited by Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson: