I am a Pittsburgh-born, American-expat writer who has spent the last ten years slowly acquiring an Australian accent. (Or so some people say. I still think I sound like a Yank.) Besides Pittsburgh, I have lived in Wooster, New York, London, Münich, and now Sydney.
People often ask me if I always wanted to be a writer. The answer is (surprisingly) ‘no.’ My mother was a writer, and even though I adored her, and adored reading, I always tried to be different from her. Actually, when I was growing up, most people thought I was going to be a veterinarian because of my intense, head-over-heels love for animals. I became a vegetarian at the age of twelve, and I have always believed that non-human animals are equal to humans, and deserved to be treated as such. But I was never very good at math, and I cringed at the sight of blood, so veterinary science was not a viable career choice.
I tried music for awhile, playing piano, flute, oboe, and doing a bit of singing. I even went to college as a music major, but in my sophomore year, I switched to theatre. Then, during a semester in New York City interning at the Vineyard Theatre, everything began to change. I had started scribbling in a spiral-bound notebook about some of my recent travel experiences, and I found that I couldn’t stop. During rehearsals the Vineyard, I slumped in my seat in the audience, zipping my black bic pen through notebook after notebook. When I told my mother I was writing, she was (as you’d expect) pretty excited. She wired me money so I could buy books like Natalie’s Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird. She even mailed me my brother’s old clunky laptop so I could type up my first young adult stories and poems. I had fallen madly and deeply in love with writing.
After I graduated with my theatre degree from the College of Wooster in 2004, I left for my next adventure – Australia. I had always dreamed of scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef, bushwalking through gumtree forests, and observing kangaroos and koalas in their natural environment. I got to do all these things…and much more! I also never stopped writing. In 2006, I started my MA in creative writing (with a concentration in young adult writing) at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, graduating with the Vice Chancellor’s Commendation and the Fred Rush Convocation Prize for creative writing. A few years later, I began a PhD in creative writing at Macquarie University, focusing on children’s and young adult verse-novels.
During my PhD candidature, I got very involved with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, an experience I wrote about in the book, Stories of the Great Turning. While my passion for children’s and young adult literature has never diminished, I have started thinking more and more about how I can use my writing to make a difference for the environment and for non-human animals. In addition to scribbling poems and young adult novels, I now write for a number of environmental journals including Audubon, The Ecologist, Resurgence, Alternatives Journal, and Earth Island Journal.