A Life in Writing

That's me on the right. Like the Nehru jackets?

That’s me on the right. Like the Nehru jackets?

There’s a theory that your destiny is prefigured by the time you’re six years old. When I was six, my young parents loaded the three of us into a vintage forest green Volvo station wagon and made the long drive from Denver to Belize City, where I attended first grade in a tarpaulin schoolroom under a house built on stilts on a muddy floodplain. The adventures of that year in Central America are among my most vivid early memories. I was too young to keep a journal, but soon afterwards I wrote a fifteen-page epic about an adventurous otter named “Ottiga.” The causal relationship between that early journey and my attempt to create a page-turner is uncertain, but it did seem to establish a pattern.

At an anti-nuclear protest in the 1970s

At an anti-nuclear protest in the 1970s

Throughout my childhood I read a lot, and was read to. Certain books stand out as having shaped and immeasurably enriched my life. Tolkien, Narnia, Watership Down, Viking tales, Ursula LeGuin, Heinlein, Asimov, historical fiction, too many novels to remember or name. Often, taking up these books was a way to escape from the difficulties of being young and introverted and moving around so much; I was the perpetual new kid on the block. Whatever the reason, I learned the same thing all bookish kids do: that books, and especially novels, have the power to strike an almost musical chord of emotion that is capable of transporting the reader into an entirely new world. And as the great James Baldwin wrote, “It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me the most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

Paige_CherryRI finished high school, went to college, traveled some more, and spent time adventuring in the mountains and by the sea. I worked at ski areas, fish markets, investment companies, and construction sites. I led student language and service trips in many countries, got married, directed college study abroad programs in Spain, Australia, and Venezuela, and got two master’s degrees (including an MFA in Fiction from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College). It wasn’t until late in my twenties that I began to write stories again, and it felt good. It felt like a way of understanding some of what I’d come through, a way to make my own small contribution to this troubled, crazy, beautiful planet we call home. And in a sense, it represented a return to the path I’d first discovered as a small child.

WPI_covercomp04Writing is an indispensable part of my daily routine now, and I don’t see that ending any time soon. I’ve been fortunate enough to see many of my stories and essays reach print—you can read some of them if you like, by clicking on the links. My first novel, Will Poole’s Island, was published in 2014, and was named to the Bank Street College of Education’s prestigious list of the Best Books of the Year.

kennebago lake croppedI’ve been lucky enough to have a professional career in addition to that of a writer that has allowed me to work in more than twenty-five countries and every continent except Antarctica. My fiction often takes place within specific physical landscapes: cities and small towns, mountains and oceans, raw nature in all its power and beauty and emptiness.

9780997452877-JacketGrayAFG2.inddThis is certainly the case in in my first story collection, A Field Guide to Murder & Fly Fishing, out in 2017. A high mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies is the point of departure for these stories of dark adventure, in which fishing guides, amateur sportsmen, teenage misfits, scientists, mountaineers, and expatriates embark on disquieting journeys of self-discovery in far-flung places. There are several more book projects in the pipeline. If you’re interested in staying updated—on the books and travel programs and on the art and craft of fiction writing—please follow me on Twitter, take a moment to “like” my author page on Facebook, and/or sign up for my very occasional email newsletter.

11990374_10101456281576857_3991631906243361107_nI love thinking and talking about writing, storytelling, travel, history, nature, and any other topic that offers fresh perspectives on the universe and our place within it, so if you have thoughts or questions, or if you want to explore setting up a workshop, a classroom visit, a reading/book signing, or any kind of speaking engagement, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Meanwhile, I wish you  a life full of love, adventure, friendship, and books!

Best regards,