I was born on New Year’s Day in Bakersfield in the hot, smoggy heart of California. On my mother’s side, I’m from Italian and Swiss vintners, on my father’s, dirt poor Scotch-Irish. Family life was interesting.
After making it through UC Berkeley—where I did my share of scrubbing floors in the Golden Bear cafeteria and bailing friends out of jail for protesting—I moved to the Hopi Indian community in northern Arizona. A three month internship turned into a two year job teaching at a Hopi elementary school. During the day I worked with teachers and kids; at night I wrote: sheaves of poems meant for nobody but me, and stories that literally trailed off mid-sentence. But the beauty and solitude of the high desert inspired me and this is where my fascination and obsession with words took hold.
After that position ended, I entered the world of public health, hoping for some mix of day job and career. I earned an MPH from Yale University and worked almost two decades at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California. For a while, I was able to balance corporate life and writing well enough to get a few feature stories published in The Express and other Bay Area publications. But as the hours mounted at work—good work, I want to add, developing Latino diabetes education programs and Spanish content for Kaiser’s national website—my writing, not surprisingly, dwindled. Finally in 2004, I decided art had taken a back seat long enough and left healthcare to get an MFA at the University of San Francisco. I felt both terrified and exhilarated.
To say it’s been easy since would be a lie. Throwing myself into writing and literature—a world stretching back thousands of years—has had its challenges. But I love it— both the teaching and the writing—even when the work is slow going. In 2007, four friends from USF and I started Babylon Salon, a literary performance series in downtown San Francisco. A decade later, we’re still going strong, having been lucky enough to feature great writers like Daniel Alarcón, Steve Almond, Chris Ballard, Yiyun Li, Peter Orner, D.A. Powell, and Ayelet Waldman, as well as many other amazing authors from across the country. Check out our website: www.babylonsalon.com
Today I live in Berkeley with my husband and teenage son, not far from where I teach writing at the University of California and The Writers Grotto. My first book, World Gone Missing, is a collection of Bay Area-based stories that will be released by Regal House Publishing in fall, 2017.
It’d be great to hear from you—what you’re writing and what you’re reading, what inspires you, what doesn’t—by contacting me.