I’m the author of Braving the Fire: A Guide to Writing About Grief. My first book, Invisible Sisters: A Memoir was named one of the “Twenty Five Books All Georgians Should Read” and Atlanta magazine’s “Best Memoir of 2009.” I write essays and nonfiction features, too, which have appeared on NPR, in Tin House, The Bitter Southerner, Drunken Boat, Full Grown People, the Manifest-station, Brevity, Newsweek, The Washington Post, and More Magazine. I’ve been a guest on the New York Times’ Dear Sugar podcast, hosted by Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond. My novel, The Magnetic Girl, is forthcoming in 2019.
I’m also the oldest of three sisters, and by the time I was 32, I was the only one living. My sister Susie died of leukemia when she was eight and I was ten. Our sister Sarah died of a rare blood disorder called Kostmann’s Syndrome, effectively the opposite of leukemia, when she was 27 and I was 32. Our father was a Civil Rights attorney in Atlanta in the 1960s, and one of the questions we lived with, all of us, was how to help others, even though we couldn’t help our own.
Readers told me about who and what they grieved. They told me how they had started writing about their losses, and we talked about how that helped them come to terms with who they have become.
In Invisible Sisters, I wanted to help myself understand how to answer that common question, “do you have any brothers or sisters?” I didn’t want to forget my sisters, but telling the truth was sometimes more than a listener bargained for.
I wrote my next book, Braving the Fire, after I’d started teaching workshops about the challenges and rewards in writing well about grief and loss.
I learned so much about community writing this book. I spoke with memoir writers I admire about their experiences writing about the grief and loss that have touched their lives. I talked with journalists about ethics, and with doctors and health practitioners about taking care of ourselves when we’re grieving again.
Creating narrative – shaping what we know into stories we can understand – is one of the oldest ways humans have made sense of our world.
I know, because I still do it, every day.
Other stuff to know about me: I earned my MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte (N.C.) and a B.S. in Communication from Emerson College in Boston. I used work in television, but did not not push the broom behind the elephant. Usually, I was the mahout – driving the (allegorical) elephant – if he was a member of SAG or AFTRA. Rock stars do not scare me.
Honors for my writing include residencies at the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation, the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts & Sciences, a 2010 Emerging Writer Fellowship from The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the 2009 Peter Taylor Nonfiction Fellowship at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, and special mention for a 2008 Pushcart Prize. I live in an old house in Atlanta, with my husband and more than one cat.