The Limits of Biography

I’m often asked for my bio, and I’ve got one–a nice, cut-and-dried story of what I do, but it doesn’t capture my various and checkered “career” (which I think is more than a little relevant in the case of this film). I wanted to share some of it with you all:

I graduated from Middlebury College with high honors and a creative thesis on poetry that garnered me a slot at the Breadloaf Writers Conference, which I attended.  However, at that point, I was very sure that I did not want to make a career of putting myself on paper through words or images—too risky in terms of making a living, as well as the notion that I’d have to compete in a very rarefied environment of poets and artists and didn’t think I could. Truth be told, I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to know that what I thought and felt mattered enough to translate into poetry and image.

So, I went to work in publishing and after a year of humiliating secretarial work—dictaphone, filing, and typing—I interviewed all my Middlebury friends and acquaintances with the intention of changing jobs. I wanted to 1)  not have to type and take dictation and 2)  make enough money to throw out the clogs and buy real shoes!

I ended up at Bunge Corporation—an International grain trading company on Wall Street, where I worked in the troubleshooting and arbitration department. Then I was transferred to the Soybean Meal desk, where I was the youngest “trader” as well as the only woman in a room full of men….Though reputedly good at my job, I was, in truth, bored to tears. Never did quite understand buying low and selling high, nor did I care.  I thought I would be in a position to help solve world hunger—and we did trade grain to Russia, China as it opened for trade for the first time  and many other countries around the world…

Then, I went with my new husband as he attended Stanford Business School where the women in the Program could not BELIEVE I would accompany my ‘spouse.’ (Ugly word, isn’t it?)

I planned to get back to my writing—this five year hiatus had taught me that the anxiety of creative work was not so bad when compared to doing ‘work’ that was not my own….So, I bought some notebooks and did write, daily, but could not seem to get beyond journaling. Where was that big story? I had always wanted to write about growing up in West Virginia—a hillbilly and red neck wanting to read the worlds great literature….but, instead I found myself unsuited to hours alone at the kitchen table so ended up playing industrial league Volleyball and swimming every day.

After the business school program, we moved to Boston and wanted to start a family. We bought an old house and I spent much time sanding floors and painting walls and making curtains.  I made bread.  I cooked delicious meals, but again, the isolation of being in a house alone was AWFUL—we knew no one so I went to work for Iron Mountain Corporation, a records storage company, writing their sales literature and eventually selling some of their products before settling at home again, when my first son was born. I stayed “home” with him and his brothers, but began to seriously write after their birth.

The births of my sons opened a floodgate of feelings that I needed to understand and to express.  Their births also gave me a sense of ‘rightness’ and a confidence—those tiny little ones needed me and I could take care of them.  I HAD to write and began to write in earnest about this new phase of my life. I enrolled in an adult education course in Cambridge and found other closeted writers. I wrote a series of short stories which led to an appointment at Harvard as a Teaching Fellow with Dr. Robert Coles in a course titled, ‘The Literature of Social Reflection.’

I LOVED teaching and continued to lead sections at Harvard from 1995-98, after which the university terminated the fellows program. During this time, I stepped up my painting.  I worked in oil paints four days a week—from about 1992 through 2005.  I have since won awards for my paintings and also have published some of my writing in small press journals….

So, that brings us up to the present, and this wild ride of an adventure that Who Does She Think She Is? has been.


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