My childhood was rooted in Wisconsin. I grew up on Pewaukee Lake in the Southeastern part of the state, where my father's side of the family has been for generations. For the first ten years of my life, we lived in a boathouse right on the water (a house that had originally been built as a bathhouse for my great-great grandfather's summer place—the house with the pillars). After that we made a big move of about three miles to a house my parents built on farmland they bought from my great aunt.
The only college I applied to was Yale, assuming if I didn't get in that I'd go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. When I was accepted, my grandfather, who'd graduated from Madison, was a little disappointed, but I went off to New Haven, and it marked a major change in my life. At Yale, I met Benjamin Schwarz, and we married in 1986, after I'd spent an extra year at Yale getting a Master's degree in English—I'd hoped that if I read enough good literature, it might make me a better writer—and a year teaching 11th and 12th grade English at a private school in Washington,D.C..
Ben won a Fulbright Scholarship to Oxford, so we moved to England for a while and then to Connecticut again, when he got a Mellon Fellowship to do graduate work back at Yale. Meanwhile, when I wasn't soaking up English atmosphere and packing boxes, I was finishing my long overdue Master's thesis on World War I poets and doing some odd editing jobs. Way back then, I had the first beginnings of the idea that would become Drowning Ruth.
In 1989, we moved to Los Angeles, so Ben could work at the Rand Corporation, and I became a teacher again. For a few years, I taught 10th, 11th, and 12th grade English at a fancy private school, and although I tried to make progress with the novel, teaching for me was all–consuming and I got nowhere. Finally, Ben said, "If you really want to write, you have to quit teaching." So I did, and took up odd jobs again--substitute teaching, tutoring and editing—while I struggled along for about five years, basically teaching myself to write and trying to figure out what story these characters really had to tell.
We moved again for Ben's work, first to Manhattan, where I finally finished the first half of the novel, and then back to L.A., where I finished the second half in less than a year. A month ago, we moved from Los Angeles to the Boston area, where Ben is a Senior Editor at the Atlantic Monthly Magazine, and where I've interrupted work on my second book to unpack boxes.