When I was in kindergarten my friend, who was in the first grade, picked up a chapter book and read aloud to me. My eyes opened wide and my heart skipped a beat. As long as I live, I will never forget that moment. “Do you think I can learn how to read, too?” I asked her. She nodded emphatically, and showed me how to sound out a few words on the page she was reading from.
When I was eight years old, I wrote my first story. From that day on I paraded around the house and announced to anybody who would listen that some day I was going to be a writer. I wrote stories when I woke up in the morning before school. I wrote stories when I was at school. I wrote stories after school, sitting at my family’s little MS-DOS computer in a stiff-backed chair my mother insisted was good for my back. I wrote stories late into the night.
Later, when I attended Portland State University and declared a English/French double major, everyone I spoke with pestered me with the same questions: “are you going to be a teacher? What in the world are you going to do with a degree in English literature?” Throughout my undergraduate studies I was consistently asked the same thing, “do you plan to teach?” And my response was always the same, “of course not! I am going to be a writer.”
After graduating, I quickly realized that the life of a writer is lonesome. My mind wandered endlessly and I could not focus on a single piece of writing to see it through to completion. After working as a substitute teacher at a private French school I realized that, after all, I was fascinated by teaching and cognitive psychology. I went to graduate school at Lewis and Clark College for teaching, and my awareness of the world and of other people expanded.
In the meanwhile, I took up rock climbing. At first the sport was merely a hobby, something to do on the occasional weekend. It quickly morphed into an obsession. I started to make larger and larger sacrifices in order to prioritize climbing. Eventually I spent all of my time climbing, sold my house to move fifteen minutes away from Smith Rocks, and even put off teaching in order to climb full time.
Rock climbing lit a fire in me that was unprecedented. I have never before felt so present. When I climb, my mind stops wandering and I focus all of my energy on precisely where I am and what I am doing. Now I know exactly what to write about: rock climbing.
Presently I am an ESL and writing teacher in central Oregon, and I also rock climb as often as I am able. In addition to teaching and climbing, I am a writer - just like I always knew I would be. I write about climbing. I write about climbers. I write about the natural world, our relationship to it, our place in it, and our responsibility to care for it.
Most of my stories are at least partly true. I hope you enjoy them.