Books weren’t just a part of my childhood; books were my childhood. As an only child, I had to entertain myself more than most kids did, and one of my earliest memories, from when I was about five or six, was hoarding my copy of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass in an antique desk and painstakingly copying out every poem in the book into a notebook for myself. The library was an endless source of wonder introduced to me by my thrifty, bookish mother: there, I could check out not only anything I wanted, but as much as I wanted, and the greed for books I indulged there deepened into a lifelong hunger. I spent my adolescence in love with the performing arts—theater, music, film—but the act of writing always remained something sacred, and became an all-encompassing lens through which to see the world that led me to write my own plays and movies as well as poems in high school, college, grad school, and beyond. Like most of us compelled to make a vocation of imagination, I didn’t choose writing; writing chose me.
I like to call Sister Mischief the world’s first interracial gay hip-hop love story for teens. I wrote it because I wanted the host of heroines who meant so much to me as a child and young adult — Anne Frank, Anne of Green Gables, Ramona Quimby, Francie Nolan —to evolve with our changing times to include queer girls and girls of color. I love my characters as family members, and Sister Mischief’s all-girl hip-hop crew represents my effort to portray young women who live beyond borders— smart, fearless girls who collaborate and aspire together and who choose one another as sisters. I wanted to write about girls who never stop asking questions, and in doing so, I hoped to write a book that smart girls would love, a book they’d read with a flashlight under their covers and know that someone understood how hard it was to grow up.
The interwoven mixed-media style of Sister Mischief, a story told in conversation, letters, and lyrics as well as prose, nods to my inability to confine myself to one genre. Poetry is my native language, but people are the objects of my fascination, and my obsession with the complicated ways we all relate to one another has spawned several plays and screenplays as well as a novel and a half (I’m currently working on a new novel, a mystery). Sister Mischief is actually the defiance of a long-held belief that I’d never write fiction—as it turns out, I just hadn’t gotten there yet.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I was a spelling bee kid, placing in the top ten spellers in Minnesota in eighth grade—an act of social suicide that paid off in a swarm of enthralling new words to add to my arsenal. This led to the half-humiliating and half-flattering nickname “The Human Dictionary” in elementary school and junior high.
2. I grew seven inches in one year of school, sprouting from 5’2” to 5’9” (I’m about 5’10 ½” now). This resulted in my mother buying me one pair of back-to-school jeans in the fall and my begging her for another one for Christmas because it was winter in Minnesota and my ankles were cold. Another wholly humiliating and not at all flattering nickname I had around that growth-spurt time was “Flaily the Squid.”
3. Until I went to college and admitted to myself that I’d known I wanted to be a writer since kindergarten, I thought about attending a conservatory and becoming a professional musician; I grew up studying flute, piano, and voice.