Biography

I was born in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1963. My father worked for state government and my mother was (is) an author of children’s books. With a writer for a mother, I began creating books of my own as soon as I was old enough to hold a stapler. I’ve included some of those early masterpieces on my Writings page. I’ve become a better writer since then. I have not become a better speller.

When I was a kid, visual art was my thing and I was mainly interested in illustrating books, but by high school I had decided I wanted to write them. I headed off to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh planning to major in writing, but once there discovered a love for History, and also discovered I was too young to have anything interesting to write about. I majored in History and then did what liberal arts majors do when they can’t find a job–I went to law school, at UNC Chapel Hill. I began writing seriously after starting my first legal job in Boston, taking creative writing classes at night and joining my first critique group. When I had paid off my student loans I quit my job and took several months off to travel and write my first novel before settling down near family in Asheville, NC. That first novel wasn’t very good and no one would publish it, but it gave me valuable practice.

Photo credit: Ann Tsao

In Asheville, a childhood friend introduced me to my future husband, Michael, a nurse. We were married in 1994. I continued to practice law, representing workers in employment disputes and helping writers and artists with small business matters. I also wrote my second novel, a not-very-thrilling legal thriller. It, too, wasn’t good enough to publish, but it was better than the first one–I was making progress. Our daughter Madeleine was born in 1998. Around that time little magazines started to accept my short stories and I began to play with the ideas that would eventually become my third novel, Under The Mercy Trees. When I first started working on it, with an infant and a solo law practice, the writing went very slowly. After my daughter started school the pace picked up.

In 2007–8, my long-time writing group, the Flatiron Writers, won a grant from the North Carolina Arts Council and regional arts councils to publish a short-story anthology, Irons in the Fire: Stories from the Flatiron Writers, which featured several of my stories. The grant also paid for us to set up a website, flatironwriters.com, where I blog about writing and legal issues for writers.

HarperCollins accepted my novel Under The Mercy Trees in the fall of 2009 and published it in January 2011.  Under The Mercy Trees won the 2011 Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Award, was chosen by the Women’s National Book Association as a Great Group Reads Selection and by the Southern Independent Bookstore Alliance as an Okra Pick (“great southern fiction fresh off the vine”), and was long-listed for both the 2012 SIBA Book Award and the American Library Association’s Over The Rainbow project.

I recently finished up a collection of related short stories set on the campus of a boarding school in the north Georgia mountains in 1969–70, and am working on a new novel.  I also teach creative writing for UNC Asheville’s Great Smokies Writing Program. I’m happy to be living in Asheville, the greatest little city in the southeast, with the most supportive community of writers, readers, book store owners and coffee establishments anyone could ask for.