The solitude of my profession is buoyed by the camaraderie of other writers and artists.
To refuel and bolster connections, I attend writing conferences and residencies around the country ranging from AWP to Bread Loaf. My Portland-based writing group as well as my peers from my MFA program at Antioch University Los Angeles influence, guide, and challenge my writing regularly.
I advocate for and serve the art community through my work on the Advisory Council for Portland Arts & Lectures' Writers in the Schools program, on the National Advisory Council for Graywolf Press, and the board of the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, a workshop and residency program on the Oregon coast.
Remaining active within my art community is the counterbalance to the solitary nature of my profession. I continue to be influenced by my fellow artists along with the natural beauty of place I live.
Oregon has never ceased to inspire me.
My childhood home bordered acres of open farmland on the outskirts of Eugene. My first paying job, at age nine, was picking strawberries in the nearby fields. Over the years, I’ve traveled and explored—earning an AB at Duke University, living abroad, working in Seattle—but I always return. And each time, an opportunity to better understand myself and my own capabilities unfolds. In the Columbia Gorge, my husband and I started an organic farm. In the years we spent there, we raised food, flowers, and children. Today, we live in Portland, where I write and teach.
I continue to have ties to the people and farmland of the Gorge, the memories and classmates in Eugene, as well as the family and energy of the Oregon Coast. I regularly retreat to the coast. I’m drawn to the tumultuous water, the moodiness of the Pacific Ocean, the rough edges of our country’s western coastline.
Writing is a practice, a craft, and a comfort.
My writing practice has always included walking. Walking—beaches, forests, the cities I visit—loosens ideas from their hiding places. Moving through space and observing the world around me is vital to my creative process.
Although my walks often begin with decluttering mind games—composing emails and to do lists or arranging carpool logistics in my head—I inevitably drift into a dialogue playing itself out. An image dusting itself off. A scene that is stuck becoming untangled.
I relish the quiet concentration of my daily writing practice. Amidst raising my family and teaching writers of every stage, I am working on a novel called By Accident. Without a reliable daily practice, it would be difficult to focus on this novel or my other writing—short stories and flash fiction.