Founder and Director, Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop; Age 33
Education: Bard College (BA), the New School (MFA)
What did you want to be when you grew up? I’ve always wanted to be a writer. My sister and I grew up surrounded by the most magical collection of children’s books, all curated and read to us on a daily basis by my mother. Before I could write, I’d dictate stories to her, and later on I’d make my own ‘books’ with illustrations. One was called “Horse of the Mountains,” about a horse who goes rogue and forms a community of woodland animals.
How do you define success? My definition is a bit of a contradiction. I’m working on finishing a novel and short-story collection and have big plans for both, yet I also try to steer myself away from the world’s definition of success — however loud. I think real success — regardless of what concrete and external goals we may and should have — is about living in a way that’s truest to ourselves: discovering what that is, and learning to hear and trust that inner guidance.
What are you passionate about? Writing. Stories. Studying and teaching craft. Sentences that feel alive. Voice-driven fiction. Speculative fiction. Creating literary community. Animals. Birds. Veganism. Adventure.
Whom do you look up to, and why? As both a writer and literary entrepreneur, I’m inspired by authors who simultaneously write while also creating literary community. My former mentor, Rebecca Makkai, is inspirational as an award-winning author, writing instructor, and director of Chicago’s StoryStudio. Julia Fierro of Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop — a wonderful writer, instructor, and savvy business leader — is also someone I admire.
What person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why? One of my favorite (deceased) writers, Angela Carter, who wrote deliciously ornate fabulist stories and fairytale retellings about beasts and vampire countesses in prose that feels electric.
Who has been your best mentor, and why? Throughout my journey as a writer, I’ve studied with some amazing authors: Aimee Bender, Rebecca Makkai, Mary Gaitskill, Brad Morrow, Julia Fierro, Caitlin Horrocks, Laura Van Den Berg, and Mary Caponegro, just to name a few. Most writers’ paths are filled with all kinds of discouragements, rejections, and loneliness, and having mentors who helped me focus on the work itself — how I could best develop both concrete craft skills and a trust in my own creativity and vision — has been life-changing. I feel immensely grateful for their generosity and brilliance.
Photography by Leah Martin Photography