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Bio, Long Version
Okay, okay. When I read bios, I always want to know the juicy bits. I always try to read between the lines. Does this mean she can’t hold down a job? Does this mean he’s a drunk? So here’s a few of the between-the-lines, Victorian style.
Way way back, my father’s side of the family was French Huegenot. They migrated from France to England and then to Virginia. The great great who moved from Virginia to Indiana was 6 foot 5 inches and a crack shot with a rifle, and one of his descendents was a judge. Another great great descended from Mayflower people and danced at Tom Thumb’s wedding. Family legend has it that she married five times while moving west across the country, ending up in southern Nebraska. Her son was a horse thief who met his future wife while in prison in Iowa. The couple supplied ties for the westward march of the railroad, spent a frightful night in a barn near the “Battle” of Wounded Knee, and ended up in 1894 settling in Wyoming’s Big Horn Basin. They ran a hotel and saloon that made the Mormon community nervous, and their descendents established the Tillett Ranch.
My mother’s side doesn’t go nearly as far back here in the U.S., just a few generations. They came from Czechoslovakia and Denmark to settle in southeast Iowa. They were farmers and small town folk. They were also a creative lot. One great had his own traveling orchestra, while his wife looked after the kids and ran an eating establishment.
During World War II, my dad was in the cavalry and did coast patrol in Washington and Oregon. My mom moved from Iowa to Oregon to go to college. They saw each other across the dance floor. Girls hung around my tall handsome uniformed father, but my mom, who looked like a movie star, had a boyfriend, so she ignored him. Eventually, they hit it off and he proposed to her on a bridge over a river. They married. Then his unit was transferred to France and then Germany and Austria after the Battle of the Bulge. His larger unit liberated six concentration camps in one day, though he never talked about it. Meanwhile, my mom stayed at my dad’s ranch.
In quick succession, both grandfathers passed away and the war ended. My father and uncle became partners. Then, after years of bad feelings, small betrayals, and questionable behavior, the whole thing came to a head. My side wanted to split the ranch, while their side didn’t. What followed was a whole Hatfields and McCoys thing—lawsuits, guns waved, dogs shot, gas tanks sugared, people trying to run over people with cars.
My childhood. Well, if you’ve read any of my stuff, you’ll know I have an ambivalent relationship with my childhood. I had it better than my older siblings, though. I’m the youngest of seven—four sisters in ten years, ten years of no kids, then my two brothers and I in five years. I’m the youngest. My husband and I joke that I was raised in the 1880s because we ranched old-style. I worked on both the ranch side and the farm side. I irrigated, drove tractor, chased cows, broke horses. Or, more accurately, one and a half horses.
It’s no wonder I’m a writer. My mom read us Shakespeare from the World Book Encyclopedia and loves family stories. My troubled childhood—isn't every writer supposed to have a troubled childhood? And I have always loved to read. No, that’s not right. Reading saved my life. As a kid, I’d read on the hour bus ride to and from school, as well as throughout the school day and into the night, finishing three or four books a week. I loved school. But when I came to college it took me 13 years to get my undergrad. I had to work out a few things, not least of all that I loved English but how could a person possibly make a living with an English degree? Turns out, you can. I wrote from an early age, but I didn’t call myself a writer until I was about 30. That’s because no one I knew was a writer—they were ranchers and teachers and waitresses and nurses.
On the ranch, I worked as a ranch and farm hand. As soon as I turned 16, I got a job as a waitress. To put myself through college, I bartended and waitressed, and I also started my own house cleaning business. Still in school, I worked as a technical editor for an environmental consulting firm while also doing freelance writing, editing, and journalism on the side. I also taught freshman comp and technical writing. Now, I’m editor for a foundation.
I started dating early, having one long-term boyfriend after another starting at the age of 14. The first was a 21-year-old drunk cowboy. (Let me just say it—cowboys are bad news.) The second was a very sweet boy who had no ambition and years later killed himself. The third was a Native American bullrider. The fourth was a manipulative bastard. The fifth was a former marine bartender who decided he wanted to be a cowboy again. Finally, I met my husband. He is an engineer who comes from farm folks in Nebraska. He is my best friend and a great father and is so sexy and wonderful. We have twins (a boy and a girl) and one of the happiest marriages I know.
Some interesting things about me:
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