In my yellow hoodie, at the Morton Arboretum. I refused to walk one more step.
I loved language then. I do now. At two, I made up
stories, silly-sing songs about Agapito, my imaginary friend. At
36, I still make up stories—some are silly and some are serious—and
all the characters I create (If I do indeed create them, and they
didn’t just tap me on my shoulder, stomp their feet, and get me to
pay attention to them.) have become my good friends.
I spent my childhood growing up in Bolingbrook, Illinois a suburb outside of Chicago. There, my parents held block parties and I chased after fireflies. My elementary school burnt down in second grade, the day before we were to go back after Christmas break. I cried. I loved school, and still do—unless it is a computer course.
My dad made me this dollhouse.
Me and my brother, Joe: in front of the marigolds my mother planted.
The summer between eighth and ninth grade, we moved to Evans, Georgia. I had a nasal Chicago whine and in the high school hallways I was surrounded by a peculiar chorus of deep throated “howdy’s” and “hey’s.” It wasn’t just the sound of the unfamiliar voices that was different. Everything was different. I was a transplant—a Yankee transplant—and instead of withering and dying like I thought I would, I flourished.
My favorite tree: a friend for life.
My sister, Katie, and our dog, Rain.
Though I may have left the Chicago 'burbs kicking and screaming, I fell in love with the South. I loved the lilting language, the red Georgia clay, the pine trees, the frequent afternoon thunderstorms, if not the hot and humid temperatures. However, what I loved most was its sense of history; from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era.
Above all, I loved southern writers—southern female writers, to be exact. Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and most of all, Harper Lee. I still love southern writers and continue adding to my collection of beloved female storytellers: Deborah Wiles, Barbara O’Connor, and Kathi Appelt.
I spent years—a baker’s dozen—in Georgia. I student taught at the first high school I attended—Evans High School, and later in college was a substitute teacher for all of Colombia County. After graduation, I got a dream job: I taught theater and English at Burke County High School in Waynesboro, Georgia. After directing my students in the one-act play competition to a second place win in 1996, I moved to New York to pursue acting.
A fellow cast member and I (I'm on the left) in a production of Shakespeare's A Winter’s Tale, performed in Augusta, Georgia.
My one and only NYC credit: an extra in a Japanese commercial for carbonated coffee. Soon I realized I was a writer, not an actor.
However, it was in New York that I began to write. Polly's world of Holcolm County Georgia springs from so many connections. Loving ones: the tight friendships I made with those whose skin color was different than mine. And eye-opening ones: the angry, nasty words written on a piece of plywood and nailed to a tree, seeing African-Americans treated differently than I was. And most frightening: learning that the Klan was still active in the town I taught in the mid-90’s. All of these experiences made me wonder what it would have been like to grow up in the 50’s and 60’s. Would I have stood up for what I believed in? What if I wasn’t allowed to be friends with the people whom were closest to me?
For ten years I lived in Brooklyn, where I would miss the coming of the magnolias but looked forward to the blossoms of the cherry trees. I now reside in Austin, Texas. I may have left Georgia, but it hasn’t left me and Coca-Cola Cake willing, it never will.