I was born in Northern Pennsylvania and grew up in Upstate New York. I have two brothers and two sisters. (Okay, maybe you don’t want me to go that far back?)
I studied Art and photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The photography studies ended up being important for writing the novel.
From there, I moved to New Orleans for no other reason than some people from Iceland and Norway were looking for someone to drive their “Drive-Away” car. I stayed there for seven years, and was very active in the anti-war movement, esp. protesting the U.S. funded war in El Salvador. I got back in school at the University of New Orleans and was studying Communications and Latin American Studies.
Later, I married the Salvadoran that I had gone to all the CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador) meetings and protests with. When he moved to San Diego, I followed him, and worked at San Diego State University for the Latin American Studies dept. I went on to work with the homeless and undocumented at St. Vincent de Paul Homeless shelter and then with teens who had gotten in trouble with the law. Finally, I went back to school to get my teaching credential and began teaching Art, English and even Health. Eventually the Salvadoran and I got divorced and I moved to Los Angeles.
In LA, I continued teaching English and ESL, but also started working on my own spiritual growth. I became the English Learner Coordinator at Venice High School and ended up contacting a man who I had worked with back in San Diego. He proposed and I moved back to San Diego (Chula Vista) and started working on my MFA in Creative Writing with the intention of writing the story of the Salvadoran civil war.
Of course, I didn’t have time to work on the story until it was time to write my thesis. I wrote a draft that spanned fifty years and then had to find a way to tell the story in a way that was not an epic tale. That is when I decided to make my protagonist, Shelly, a photographer so instead of the story being a series of vignettes that had little relation to each other, I ended up having Shelly hear the secrets and lies of the Salvadorans while she photographed them. The majority of these people were part of one family.
This first novel was a long, hard road, not just because it was about a horrendous war, but also because it was very hard for me to make changes. I was happy with each version and it took a lot of research to decide to change the story into something that was easy to follow. I wanted to get it right so I continued to study Story Structure and other aspects of storytelling. Despite hiring two writing coaches who made many suggestions, I couldn’t make any changes that I didn’t absolutely decide that was what I felt in my heart needed to be done.
At every stage of the writing, I was sending out queries and did get a request for a partial, but I sent that partial in more than a year later (I thought I had deleted all dates, but later found a date was left in there.) I had almost hired several editors, but one was ripping people off. Another was charging too much and another got sick of my questions and told me not to contact him again.
Finally I decided to run a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for the editing. At that time, I didn’t realize that editing was only one of several expenses.
In truth, had I known the journey would be so long and difficult, I probably would have quit so I guess my obsessive optimism was a good thing, in this case.
Another writer who had published seven books took me under his wing. He gave me the name of an excellent Canadian editor whose prices were lower than most editors’ prices. He gave me the name of an Australian woman who did cover design who also did the formatting for me. Both of these people were extremely helpful. They answered my incessant questions, sometimes reminding me that I already had those answers in previous e-mails.
Now that I am finished, I am glad that I independently published the novel. It allowed me to tell the story my way and though I have a lot invested in the book, I will also make the bulk of sales should it take off.
“Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” is a love story between a young American woman and the Salvadoran people. It is a work of love and passion. It wasn’t until I finished it that I realized I have other stories to write, including the prequel to this novel and a couple of sequels.
I continue to live with my Filipino Hippie husband who is a teacher and a piano player and we have a great life together.
I hope that “Secrets & Lies in El Salvador” will be used to teach history through literature in 10th grade high school classes or at the college level. I also hope to help seniors and troubled teens write their story.
There is so much to do and so little time! But I will do my best to make my dreams come true.