I started traveling and working my way around the world at the age of eighteen. At last count I had worked forty six different jobs, including "hotwalker" at a racetrack, dancer in an opera, farm hand, seamstress and clown. I've been a lifeguard, a camp counselor and a factory worker. I landscaped the second largest shopping center in the Southern Hemisphere. I've done every job you can do in (lots of) restaurants. I hitchhiked from DC to Alaska once for a summer job in Denali National Park. I've worked all over the world as a Scuba instructor, Divemaster and underwater model, as well as cook/crew aboard several charter yachts.
All seven of my novels have come in one way or another from my adventures. I now live in Washington DC with my dog Ginger and sister cats Pirate Jenny and Moxi.
I was born in Washington DC in 1957 and grew up in an apartment just across the river in Arlington Virginia. We weren't a family that traveled, so reading took me on all my childhood adventures. I read everything - pillaging the library weekly and scavenging old National Geographics from our building's trash room. Stuck one long summer at Grandma's rural house with few literary options, I found a 1943 Red Cross First Aid manual in the attic and read it at least eight times. (I can still, if necessary, bandage an avulsed eyeball with a paper cup.)
But I still wanted to travel in "real life," so I worked all during high school and saved enough money to buy an old van when I graduated. I fixed it up with an army cot and sleeping bag, a fuzzy red bean bag chair, an oil lantern, a little backpacking stove and of course, stacks of notebooks to write my life story, then set off for what turned out to be a three year trip around all of North America, half of Canada and a bit of Mexico.
I set off at eighteen knowing nothing about anything, but the years of travel expanded my world. Solo travel forces you to go outside your comfort zones and meet all kinds of people - including yourself. Way back then in 1976, there was of course, no internet or ipod for entertainment. The revolutionary Walkman, (a portable cassette tape player) didn't even appear until 1980! So on those long solitary nights parked on some roadside or in a tent on some mountain top, my only entertainment was again reading and writing.
My journals from these years were fairly typical - some teenage angst and lonely soul-searching, lots of over-wrought descriptions of beautiful places and rollicking pages of wild adventures with new friends. The problem with reading a lot is that you know how good your own work has to be, and can pretty easily recognize when it'is not. I do wince when I read these old journals, but I also see the good bits that kept me inspired and motivated to keep writing. I never thought about "being" a writer - I had just always written.
Eventually I went to college at George Washington University where I studied theater, journalism, English lit & creative writing. I worked for a year after graduating but got restless again, so in 1983 I left to hitchhike around the world. Hitchhiking was more accepted in those days, and as a woman traveling alone with a backpack I got rides from people that didn't usually pick up hitchhikers. Elderly people, other women, even families. There is a liberating intimacy in long car rides with strangers, and people often told me their lives. Language was sometimes a barrier, but we could usually manage with their bits of English, my lame high-school French, pantomime and drawing pictures. This was one of the most valuable writing classes I could ever have taken.
On this journey I was again picking up jobs as I went along. In Paris I got a job sewing secret pockets into the clothing of a man who claimed to be a spy. In St. Moritz I worked as a maid in a chalet and learned to ski. After a few months on the backpacker circuit in India, Nepal and Southeast Asia, I wound up broke again in Sydney Australia, but got a job the next day for a landscaping company. A few backbreaking weeks later, I joined on as crew to help sail a yacht from Sydney up the coast to the Great Barrier Reef. There I jumped ship, learned to Scuba dive (pawned my camera to pay for the course) then got a job on a charter dive yacht. Diving became a lifelong passion that took me all over the world for the next twenty years. In between seasonal dive jobs, I lived in DC, worked in restaurants and did freelance writing in every possible style and genre, while also writing my novels.
And here I am today, shoving cats off my keyboard, rummaging about the woods with my dog and growing weird vegetables in my little back yard. I still like to travel, though for shorter, more focused trips. Traveling is really just about learning to say "yes." Yes, I will talk to strangers, yes, I will go there, try this, taste that; climb - what!? Well -o.k. - yes. I will just say yes. All those adventures, all those people, all those jobs, adventures, challenges, fears, joy and loneliness are part of me now. So I continue on that path but in a different way in my own home, in my own city. The adventure now is to have people at my table, to visit their art shows and watch their plays and read their books and keep on writing my own.