I am a child of the southern plains, and the big adventure began in a small town in northern Oklahoma. Ponca City was named for the Ponca tribe, which was forcibly moved to the region after losing their land to the Sioux in an ill-fated treaty with the federal government. My mom was a housewife, and my dad was a mechanical engineer at Continental Oil, or “Conoco.” Almost everyone’s dad worked there and the kids of Ponca City grew up surrounded by scientists, geeks and other big thinkers. I spent most of my childhood riding horses, throwing rocks, playing softball and blowing alto sax in the school band. The youngest of four, I was often left to my own devices. I entertained myself by making faces in the bathroom mirror and dressing up the family pets. I was a chubby tomboy with a bit of a feral streak and a proclivity for potty mouth. I had a signature look that included long braids, a red baseball cap worn backwards, ripped jeans and black riding boots. While my fashion sense has matured slightly over the years, my overall sensibility remains the same.
I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. Words were always like tinker toys to me –something to be played with, put together, taken apart and used for creative exploration. I was around six or seven years old when I wrote my first story. It was about a bird who lived in a cuckoo clock. Our next door neighbor had a bookstore and I asked her if she would please sell my story in her shop. She patted me on the head, handed me a donut and sweetly declined my request. It was my earliest experience of that classic bane of writers: rejection. A few years later, I wrote “Brute the Wonder Dog.” In this riveting tale, Brute, a handsome German Shepherd, performed feat after heroic feat; he saved the sheep from the burning barn, rescued the drowning child from the river, chased down and captured the robbers and won a blue ribbon in obedience at the county fair. He was a four-pawed superhero without the cape. I knew for sure that this would be the story to catapult my fledgling writing career. I asked my father to take my handwritten story and type it up for me. He kindly obliged and the next morning at breakfast, presented me with the clean manuscript. I was thrilled to have a typewritten copy of my story. It felt official to my young mind, and professional. However, my excitement was short-lived. Much to my horror, my father had taken artistic liberties with my story. Brute was no longer a wonder dog but a mangy neighborhood menace who got into the trash, chewed up the garden hose and pooped on the lawn. I ran wailing to my bedroom before my father had the chance to give me a second copy with my original story intact. My dramatic outburst was, of course, wildly amusing to my older siblings. This was perhaps one of the most valuable lessons my father ever taught me: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
I kept writing.
My writing pursuits took me first to the University of Oklahoma and then to the University of Iowa, where I received a BA in English. I survived the rigorous competition of academia but I’m not convinced that higher education is for everyone. Life experience, in all its messiness and wonder, has been and continues to be far more valuable in the development of my craft. In my opinion, hard-earned grit is infinitely more interesting than intellectual prowess. That said, I am grateful for my education. After graduating from college, I loaded my dog into my Nissan truck, cranked up the tunes and drove west, eventually landing in Albuquerque. I worked at a variety of gigs there and met the father of my children. I joined an improvisational theater company that ultimately took us to Seattle. I spent five years with the King’s Elephant Theater. I had a blast and learned a ton from this ferociously talented crew. These were the people who first taught me the rhythm and flow of improvisation. Little did I know then that my time with them was laying the foundation for my future pursuit of jazz.
Along the way, I stepped out of the dance to have children and to focus on raising a family. I’m the proud mom of three: two sons and a daughter. Two of them are strong beautiful spirits, boldly making their marks in the world. The other, while no longer with us physically, lives on forever in my soul, my heart and my very bones. Motherhood has been an exquisite gift. It has also kicked my ass. (I’ve learned that parenting teenagers is the ultimate karmic payback for having been one.) My sons are my greatest teachers and being a parent informs almost everything I do.
Over the course of my career, I’ve written for a variety of industries and situations and have worked on a little bit of everything: web copy, product descriptions, testimonials, magazine articles, marketing materials and one sheets. I’ve also written a fair amount of poetry. OK, a ton of poetry. For the past ten years or so, the majority of my writing has been for the arts and entertainment industry, with a particular focus on music. I write stories about musicians and bands and help them craft buzz about their latest projects. I am extremely fortunate that my two passions –music and writing– dovetail so nicely and it’s a real privilege to work with my musical peers in this capacity. On my blog, I unleash on a variety of topics including music, the creative process, politics, issues pertaining to LGBT youth and anything else that that fires me up. I hope to eventually write song lyrics and to one day publish a book of essays. I have not written fiction in a very long while but a revival of “Brute the Wonder Dog” is always a future possibility. If I’ve learned anything in this life, it’s that you never know.