When you meet someone new, you tend to break the ice by asking a simple question: Where are you from? Somehow, I still don't have a concise answer to the query, so when I'm asked, I look at the questioner as though she's trying to pull a fast one over on me and stare dumbly until the silence is too awkward to bear. Eventually I say something useless like, "I'm a military brat."
Which is sort of true. My parents divorced when I was very young, and my stepfather was in the Marines. I remember living on military bases in Tennessee and North Carolina, though the bulk of our moving came afterward, as he was finding work in the land of civilians. Long story short, I had at least temporary addresses in seven states and attended some dozen schools by the time I graduated high school.
The downside is that I never feel I'm home. But there's an upside, too: I love to travel, I can talk to anyone and I never forget just how amazing this world is -- and how connected we all are.
The constant in my life has been writing. I remember the first poem I wrote in the third grade, which was the first of hundreds to come. My mother encouraged me to keep a book of my work, and I compiled them all in one of those clear-covered report binders you find at office supply stores. I still have it. A few years later, I helped launch my junior high's first newspaper, and I've been in journalism ever since. That wasn't the only publication I founded: While a student at the University of Iowa, I recruited my musician boyfriend to help me launch The Proper Gander, an independent music 'zine that grew to 10,000 circulation and helped land me my first full-time job as associate arts and entertainment editor for Iowa's second-largest newspaper. I was 21. I've been a fixture in newsrooms throughout the Midwest ever since.