The Link Between Reading and Writing

I’ve been a voracious reader since childhood, when Thursdays were my favorite day because that’s when the Bookmobile came to my school. It was in the Bookmobile that I discovered my earliest “favorite” books:  A Secret Garden, Little Women, and the Anne of Green Gables series.  When I was 12, I won a dictionary from the library as a prize for an essay I wrote about books being a magic carpet that took me anywhere I wanted to go.

I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil.  I knew I wanted to “be” a writer by the time I was in 6th grade.  When I was in high school, I confided my passion for writing in a letter to John Knowles, the author of A Separate Peace. He wrote me back, encouraging me to continue writing—a message that I cherished for years.  As a student at Tufts University, I began to write short stories and started to keep a journal—a discipline instilled in me by my advisor and teacher, Jesper Rosenmeier, a Danish scholar of American literature who introduced me to Jonathan Edwards, Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman and Faulkner.

A Dream Deferred

Although I held in my heart the dream of writing the Great American Novel, I was also brought up to know that I had to be “practical” and make a living.  I wrote insurance policies and worked with mentally disabled children until I found a job as a secretary in the college division of a venerable Boston publishing house (barely passing the typing test).  Within a year I had moved into an editorial position, and began supervising the editing and production of college textbooks in the sciences and social sciences.  Although it still wasn’t the Great American Novel, I got to immerse myself in American intellectual and social history.

Harvard Changes Everything

I left publishing to attend Harvard Business School, where I learned how to think on my feet, develop a marketing plan and write comedy for the annual B-School student musical, in which I performed in a platinum blonde wig while seven months pregnant.  After earning my MBA, getting divorced and giving birth, I became circulation manager of a new magazine and got a crash course in magazine marketing.  Unfortunately, I also crashed head-on into my boss and got fired a year after the magazine’s launch.  Around this time I got an invitation to my tenth college reunion, signed up to attend and fell in love with a man I hadn’t seen since freshman year.  One Sunday, on an excursion to a children’s zoo my son got carsick and threw up.  This wonderful man calmly got him out of the car, cleaned him up and took him for a walk in the fresh air, and I knew I had a keeper.

An Unexpected Gift

We married, bought a house in the hills of central New Jersey and began to build a life together.  I found work in Manhattan, writing on marketing and corporate policy for a business think tank for several years, and then moved to Germany—my husband’s birthplace—with my family.  While living in Europe, I received an unexpected gift of a cache of love letters that became the seeds for my first novel, Dancing on Sunday Afternoons.

I’ve been married for  thirty-five years to the “keeper,” a brilliant scientist and sailor, and I’m the mother of three children of whom I am enormously proud.  I love to cook and am happiest when the twelve chairs around my dining room table are filled with people enjoying my food. I speak four languages, some better than others.  I play the piano every night—sometimes by myself and sometimes in an improvisational duet with my younger son.  I do The New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle in ink, a practice I learned from my mother.  From my mother I also absorbed a love of opera, especially those of Puccini and Verdi, whose music filled my home when I was a child.  I once climbed Mt. Kenya and have very curly hair.

Stories of the search for connection and belonging