I have been teaching English and directing theater in the public schools for 24 years. My mission—in my writing, teaching, and directing—has been to promote a culture of social acceptance and engagement. To not only celebrate free and creative expression, but to promote that expression as a way of making a change. I've been blessed in my years of teaching to see the power of writing transform thousands of my students’ lives, just as it continues to transform mine.
For many years, I put my own writing back in the closet. I was busy on the stage directing The Crucible or Spamalot or Freak the Mighty or whatever new show caught my interest. And in the classroom, I was busy creating lesson plans or grading narratives or reading the newest adolescent novel so I could relate to my students. I had issues to attend to as the president of the education association in my school district. To my creative writing students, I preached any one of my favorite quotes from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. “Just sit down and do it!” I would say. “Just write.” And then I’d get up and find something else on my to-do list that had to be done.
Then, one day, I was stuck at a dirty little coffee shop outside of an even dirtier little town while my husband was working down the road on the makeup for a bridal party that was supposed to be four girls and ended up being something like sixteen. I opened my computer and stared at an empty document. Told myself it was time. Asked myself what I was still hiding from…
Just write," I said, and started to write.
Unless you’ve grown up as a queer person in a fundamentalist Christian family, under the words of a Bible that you thought you believed in even though it said you were an abomination, with a family that loved you unconditionally until the one condition was broken, it’s difficult to understand the fears that still weigh on you even when you’ve been out of the closet for over a decade. I had faced three decades of my own self persecution, stumbled sloppily through a few years of coming out piecemeal to family, found a loving relationship with my husband, but to let any of that find it’s way into ink on paper? Well, that was another thing altogether. I mean, wasn't it?
So I stared at that blank document while I finished another cup of coffee and then I typed… “On Sunday night, I kissed a boy.” And I didn’t stop typing until the waitress said, “are you sure?” when I asked for my twentieth refill of coffee. Shortly after that day, I decided to pursue an MFA in fiction at Western Michigan and just finished in the winter of 2017. I’m still teaching English and directing plays and musicals, still president of the local union, so my to-do list is just as long, but I make writing a priority. And I remind myself of that every day. I have to.
On top of writing, I love to travel, mountain hike with my husband of twelve years, go antiquing with friends, or sit peacefully with a good book in our perennial garden. Or if none of that is possible in the moment, there's always this little video I made of some Michigan freshwater jellyfish swimming in all their glory in a glass beaker on my desk.