I was born during a thunderstorm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My dad had to fly through it to get home to meet me. My mom packed her suitcase and drove herself to the hospital. When I was born, I let out one tiny cry. I had so much hair that the nurses used me for a bath demonstration for the other new mothers. After my bath, I promptly peed on the nurse. My mom and dad brought me home from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day.
I love hearing the story of my birth. Every year, my mom tells it to me, and I still get excited over each detail, over what brought me to life.
I grew up devouring stories. One of my fondest memories is checking out at least a dozen books every two weeks from the Northland Public Library, getting lost in novel after novel. Another was going to see musicals like The King and I (with Yul Brynner!) at Heinz Hall downtown.
Stories fed me.
When I was fourteen, my dad died, bringing the reality of death sharply into focus as I turned a corner from childhood into young adulthood.
My simple story about life—that all kids grew up loved and guided by two living parents, that my dad would interview my boyfriends and test their mettle, that when I got married one day my dad would walk me down the aisle—collapsed. I needed a new one. I needed a story in which a girl could survive devastating loss and find joys in unexpected ways.
I kept on devouring stories, with a new fervor. I discovered that when I read a particularly moving novel or poem, saw a movie or a play that cracked my heart open, as well as when I wrote a story or speech or essay that found its way to a soulful center, something else happened.
Stories still fed me, but they also healed me.
And I knew I was meant to write them. I had to. My heart said so. You know what I mean?
Although I love being a writer, it's not enough for me to just tell stories; I also feel compelled to make way for them. For me, helping another person unleash a story that's been swelling in the depths of her heart or burning its way through his skin, is as much of a gift as the story itself.
In the telling of stories, doors can open and hearts can open, and we can step through to a new place. One of my favorite stories is in the biblical book of Ezekiel, when the narrator experiences the valley of dry bones and watches divine spirit come in and make those bones dance, enfleshing and breathing life into them.
In writing my novel, Putting Makeup on Dead People, I took the dry bones of losing my dad and let a fictive world emerge, breathe life into loss, and let it sing a new song. What a release.
The people I work with are ready, are itching, even, to take the dry bones of their lives and to make them dance. They want that release.
Again and again, in all aspects of my life, I return to themes of birth and death, hope and loss, joy and grief, and the transformation from one to the other. And bringing myself home to gratitude.
For me, that's all at the center of story.
While I'm fascinated with birth, I'm not interested in having babies. I've chosen to give birth to books and to help others do the same.
In an emergency, if you're, say, stranded on a desert island or caught in a snow storm in a cabin in the forest, you can give birth to a book on your own, but ideally, really, you want some support personnel. That's me.
I should add that I don't see my work as limited to books; it goes deeper than that. What I know is this: the stories we are meant to tell are inextricably linked to the lives we are meant to live.
Primarily, I work with people who are longing to express deep truth, liberate their voices, and in so doing, make the difference they came onto this planet to make.
I've always loved envisioning a big picture, from crafting jewelry heist mystery plays for my baby dolls and stuffed animals, to designing and creating retreat experiences for hundreds of college students, to planning luscious meals for people I love. I put this passion to work when I offer feedback on a manuscript and when I craft a coaching plan for someone.
I also believe in the big picture and cycle of life, from birth to death to new life. This cycle is all around us—in the way the seasons move, in what happens in our relationships, in our creative projects. It shows up in spiritual and religious traditions worldwide, throughout history—from the story of Jesus dying and rising to the story of the movement of Goddess and God in Pagan traditions through the Wheel of the Year, a constant cycle of death and rebirth.
We are this cycle. We live this story. And sometimes we resist it. I know I do. And often that's when I suffer. I didn't want my marriage to end; I held tight and kept trying to resuscitate it. But it was dying. I was terrified to leave behind traditional employment and start my own business, but that new part of my story was determined to be born, pushing other work out of the way until I paid attention.
But when I allow myself to live the cycle—to not only have moments when I'm budding and blooming and soaking in the sun, but also to let myself have moments when my leaves fall away, when I'm basically composting or resting under cold frozen ground—then I am going with the flow of the world, and then I am thriving, even in the underground wintery hibernation days.
What I hope to do in all of my work is to embrace and honor that sacred cycle and inspire others to do the same.
I'm so glad you're here.