I live in a barn in the Catskills with my husband Mark, our cat, Buster, and five West Indian Rock Iguanas, genus Cyclura. These lizards can live to be more than 50 years old. We’ve made provisions for them in our will. The rhinos (species cornuta) are Sebastian, Ava, Emo, and the Cubans (nubila) are Che, and Luna.
This is my favorite pic. In most photos of me without a lizard I’ve got this look on my face like something’s missing.
Helen Robinson designed these book covers:
I did my MFA at Vermont College in 2002. It took me ten years and five universities to get my undergrad degree, since I was trying so hard not to be a writer. But when I got to Vermont I had the college experience I’d always wished for and I go back to post-grad workshops when I can. Since 2010 I’ve lead a workshop at The Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. I love my writers!
BLUE IGUANA came out in 2014 and I’m taking a break from writing for kids. When I took an early draft of it to Vermont, Carolyn Coman said, “I want the human connection.” So after BLUE IGUANA I started a new story –one that’s been cooking on the back burner for years– and I said, No animals, none! All humans, I’ll show them connecting, I swear I’ll get it right this time!
I wrote for a year and Carolyn said, “I miss the critters.” Another year of work on a draft with animals. I took it to Vermont and Martine Leavitt said the parts where the character is a little girl are brilliant, but the parts where she’s older do not engage at all. My friend Melissa said, “Of course not, because you’re hiding part of her.” I said, What? I wasn’t trying to hide. I didn’t understand.
A homeopath once said my words were Anger, Rejection, and Hiding. The remedy is Trust. I got the anger and rejection right away, but didn’t have a clue what the hiding was about. My struggle with the story finally showed me. Memoir is the right form for it, and I need to trust myself and my writing process. It’s such a journey.
In 2001 when I met Stephen Roxburgh I trusted him immediately and spilled my guts. Okay, that’s gross, but it’s not far off. I exposed myself and heard words come out of me that I hadn’t planned on saying. I began to tell the truth. Stephen is not publishing right now, but it’s very good for me to be moving on with my writing.
I’m not sure what comes after the memoir. I do have a strong pre-adolescent voice. SUNDOWN was relatively easy to write, and it was the most popular. But is that what matters?