When I graduated high school in Louisville, Kentucky I was voted Most Likely To Write The Next Great Southern Novel. Didn’t happen; I didn’t even major in English. Instead I ended up with a BS in nursing, and my dream of living in Colorado fell through when I married a vet student from New Jersey. I spent the next decades raising two children and working first as a nurse and then as wildlife rehabilitator in New Hampshire. The only writing I produced was one really bad short story still hidden in a drawer.

My desire to write resurfaced in 1996. I was making frequent trips to Kentucky to help my aunt who still lived alone in the house my grandfather built in 1929. In March I got the expected call: Aunt Will was in the hospital and would need full-time care when she returned home. She had given up a Navy career to raise me; now it was my watch.

For the next nine months I saw my brilliant, feisty and fiercely independent aunt slip into helplessness and confusion. Working around her needs, I also sorted through three generations of family treasures and memories, returning to New Hampshire only after burying her beside my mother, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

After Aunt Will’s death, I tried writing a memoir about returning to my childhood home, this time as parent/caregiver, and being reabsorbed into my extended family.  About heat and summer thunderstorms and massive old trees crashing down on all sides, about bats in the attic, roots in the septic system, and a near miss by a tornado. About the lonely dilemma of keeping my aunt alive while knowing she wanted to die.

It didn’t work. I wrote in circles, more and more entangled in details, perceptions, and rhetorical musing. By now writing had become a need rather than a want so I started over, this time writing about growing up with cousins, aunts and uncles, doting grandparents, puppies, kittens, pet chickens and goats, and horses. Lots of horses.

I love reading mysteries, so I attempted a mystery novel set in the Kentucky horse country. It wasn’t very good. Agents didn’t beg to represent me; I collected enough rejection letters to paper a small room. Some agents were kind enough to respond with more than “Dear Author:” telling me exactly why they turned me down. A few threw lifelines of encouragement: “love your voice, great characters, terrific ambience . . .” I hoarded the personal responses like gold nuggets. Too dumb to give up, I read books on writing, joined the New Hampshire Writers’ Project, took classes, attended conferences and workshops — doggedly slogging toward publication.

In 2006, I signed up for the Backspace Conference in New York, two days of intensive interaction with agents, editors, and published authors. I sat squirming as a prestigious agent read two pages of my mystery novel aloud to a packed room and drawled, “Dick Francis — who cares?” I also met genuinely gracious agents who said don’t quit, never give up.

One agent at the conference agreed to read my full manuscript. She declined that novel but asked me to show her something different. Taking her advice, I wrote The High Road Home, not a good fit for her stable but light-years ahead of my earlier efforts.

Fast-forward to the 2009 Backspace Conference. With a better product, I dared to hope. This time I came away with a dream agent, giant steps closer to sharing my novel with readers beyond my circle of friends. Publication isn’t assured, but I now have one foot on the ladder.

Stay tuned.



  1. I’m so excited.
    When do I get to read it?

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