I write; I read; I have dogs.
I’m a novelist and short story writer. While lately it’s been all novels all the time, I’ve published stories in The New Yorker and quite a few literary reviews. The stories are mostly about people in small towns–I grew up in one. In my childhood I believed I would end up a poet who also wrote plays, or a playwright who also wrote poetry. I ended up in grad school on the way to a Ph.D. in Lit but I stopped at the Master’s. I started writing my first novel as a way to procrastinate my thesis (on Virginia Woolf, which I did in fact complete). And then fiction took over. Nine novels later, I’m still at it, still finding out the beautiful thing that I will never stop finding out new things about writing fiction.
Along the way I’ve been lucky to have gifted, wise people as my editors–at Coffee House Press, Pantheon Books, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. And I’m lucky too in my agent, Joy Harris, and with the many readers who take the time to write to me about their experiences with my books. And the bookstores and libraries who invite me to give readings. And all the book groups who have chosen a book of mine–yes, even those groups and readers who feel that the ending of one of my novels is just wrong. (That would be A Private Hotel for Gentle Ladies.) Also, I’m glad to be a Fiction Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Artists Foundation.
My newest: The Mountaintop School For Dogs, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014.
My first: Small Town Girl, Houghton Mifflin, 1983.
I live in Maine on the Phippsburg peninsula. It’s a coastal, rural, watery world here: the ocean close by to the south, the Kennebec River east across my road, a large freshwater pond to the west. A dirt driveway. Woods. Lots of sky.
Maine was supposed to be a getaway place from my busy, crowded life in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I taught creative writing for a long time, at Boston College, Northeastern University, the Harvard Extension School, the (former) Radcliffe Seminars, and most recently as Writer in Residence at MIT.
But after a little while of Maine as the getaway place, I didn’t want to go back, so the getaway had to be rewritten with the new title of home.
I’m just now finishing a new novel. It’s quiet here when the dogs aren’t barking. I’ve come to know that silence has lots of levels. When I’m at the keyboard writing anything that isn’t fiction, I hear the click of the keys. When it’s fiction, I hear the words.
Photo: Greta Rybus