Who I am

From the time my fourth-grade teacher asked to keep a poem I wrote, I have turned out poetry, stories, and articles.  My first novel was written in the fifth grade, when I was enamored of marine biology after a trip to the Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco.  My heroine, a thinly-veiled and wishful version of myself, got to journey to an experimental city at the bottom of the sea with her oceanographer father.  Although that hand-written novel resides in an old stationery box, some of my later work has been published in more widely-read venues.  

My varied career led a good friend to call me Renaissance Mom, but life has never been boring!  I have worked in magazines; in public relations for the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC; as a technical writer; as an assistant professor at two colleges in Los Angeles and now at St. Edward's University in Austin; as an editor for a big publishing house; as the publisher of a very small press; and as a mother with extensive volunteer experience running writing workshops for the school.

My master's degree is in Professional Writing, from the University of Southern California, and my undergraduate work in Plan II, Liberal Arts Honors, was completed at The University of Texas at Austin.  

What I do

Most people have a story to tell, and I am drawn to the rich and colorful narratives of individuals sharing stories we need to know.  Personal narratives offer insight into the human condition as a whole and often chronicle a particular strand of our shared human history.  

One of my early narrative history projects was a collection of interviews from storekeepers, volunteer firefighters, high school students, Future Farmers of America participants, a temporary minister, an elderly gentleman who made artful and affordable grave markers, and others who comprised a small town that was about to be transformed by the building of an airport for a nearby city. My graduate thesis, Out of the Shadows:  An American Indian Community in Los Angeles, drew me into a swirl of events--from educational board meetings to pow wows--that taught me about an entire population that thrived by passing down meaningful dances, regalia, traditions, and oral history. 

Besides writing, I have also taught literacy, college English courses, and creative writing workshops; I currently teach Rhetoric & Composition and an American Experience course at St. Edward's University.  For six years, I coordinated the Young Writers' Workshop for our neighborhood elementary, pairing established local writers of all genres (songwriting, scriptwriting, authors, academics, journalism, and media) with 3rd-5th graders.  Learning to write empowers a person with a unique means to share his or her experience of the world.

On my desk

In the early 1990s, I moved to Los Angeles to begin my master's degree. It is easy to feel lost and disconnected in a city of that size--even moreso, if your roots are elsewhere. Having grown up attending pow wows with my Cherokee grandmother, I began, on a tip, searching for the pow wow circuit in LA.  The stories I collected to share the American Indian perspective became my master's thesis and crystallized for me the importance of cultural identity.  Now that thesis, revised to book form, has been published.

Pow Wows and Potlucks: Finding An American Indian Community in Los Angeles, was released by Ethnographics Press in September 2015.  Copies now available for purchase on this website: Go to the Purchase tab (at page top) and click on the book to see the "Buy Now" button.  You may also purchase copies on Alibris.com, by searching for the title or linking through my full name.

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From 2010-2013, I worked with Wella Hartig to write the story of how she stumbled into exercise as a young adult and subsequently focused her two children in the sport of swimming. 

Buoyant:  How Water and Willpower Helped Wella to Channel Aaron and Hayley Peirsol tells the story of the family’s meteoric rise from single-parent welfare circumstances to distinction in the world of elite swimming.  Discovering that intense exercise grounded her, despite challenges from ADHD and anxieties, Wella guided her children, Aaron and Hayley, into remarkable athletic careers that resulted in seven Olympic medals and two world records for Aaron as well as world rankings for Hayley in freestyle distance events and triathlon.  This family memoir offers guidance to other parents navigating competitive sports and touches upon cutting-edge neuroscience that relates exercise to mental health. It is a clear lesson that we have the power to change our own lives. 

 

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