After Anna Shields receives an invitation from her estranged Aunt Lydia, she flies to Tennessee to find a number of older women—Tasha, Sadie, and Chloe—also living on Lydia’s farm. After losing power during a blizzard, the women share dark and startling secrets. Skating between past and present, they reveal frighteningly desperate things that they have done. Anna begins to realize, to her shock, that these things are connected to her own past and become key to her future.
Anna, Lydia, Del and Rae flipped through brochures while waiting for the incoming advising specialist of Living Oaks Estates to lead them on a tour of the facility. They’d left Patty back at the farm to watch over Frances, a duty she said she’d prefer to “Picking out Frances’ final resting place,” making Anna cry. The sisters were glad Patty wasn’t with them; her cryptic comments would just make Anna’s imminent choice that much harder.
The lobby of the Estates’ common house rivaled that of the finest hotels: thick carpeting, low chandelier lighting, and a live ensemble trio playing easy listening music in the corner, next to a massive rock fireplace burning a low, soothing gas flame. The overall peaceful energy was reflected in the relaxed smiles of the greeters, the medical caretakers, and the residents themselves. Anna noted that some were walking freely, if slowly. Many were using walkers, scooters, and motorized wheelchairs; a few were
accompanied by uniformed helpers or a visiting family member. This caused Anna to imagine Frances, here, and knew she’d be in this last category.
“Feels like a funeral home,” Anna remarked.
“More like a spa, if you ask me,” Del said.
“Reminds me of the Four Seasons, in Manhattan,” Rae noted.
“Hello!” a chipper young woman in stylish business attire was already extending her right hand, heading for Lydia with a folder under her arm and a giant toothy smile on her face. She wore a lanyard around her neck displaying her photo ID. All the staff wore them, Anna noticed. “My name is Tiffany Thomas, and I will be your guide today. Any questions you have, just ask!”
After the introductions, Tiffany walked backwards while describing the scenery, showing off the in-house conveniences. She directed their attention to the beauty parlor, exercise room, theatre, post office, pharmacy, book store and café, pool, and on and on…It is a spa, Anna thought, but not one whose amenities Frances would ever enjoy. Anna followed behind the aunts with Amelia sleeping in the sling across her chest. She didn’t want to listen to the descriptions of the services and opportunities, or even the important stuff—the physical therapy programs, the incorporated care, and the memory center, which monitored decline and ministered appropriate care. The voices ahead sounded like the adults in the Peanuts cartoons she’d watched as a kid—Wah wah wah wah, wah—so she tuned them all out.
The tour ended in the type of apartment unit that would be most appropriate for Frances. It contained a small kitchenette, large bathroom, roomy bedroom, living room, and a gated garden area. They sat in the living area on the staged couches and chairs, listening as Tiffany whipped through the details of the residency terms—prison terms, Anna thought—and the kind of care provided. As far as Anna could tell, Frances would be locked up in this surreal place for the rest of her life, as her mind disappeared and she forgot everyone. What kind of daughter does that to her mother? Anna thought guiltily. She knew how good the farm had been for Frances in these last few weeks. She knew how settling Amelia’s arrival had been on Frances’ wandering, too; she’d stayed close to the house, and spent much of her time with her granddaughter. Amelia seemed soothing therapy for Frances. Maybe they’ll wait ’til the fall. She’d decided to put the move off when Lydia’s voice called her back to the conversation.
“Anna, did you hear Tiffany? There will be a unit ready at the end of next week,” Lydia said, careful in her choice of words. She’d watched Anna’s retreat from the guided tour, and saw Anna’s imagination taking over the benign scenarios, applying each to Frances. Lydia could tell that Anna wasn’t feeling the relief that everyone had hoped for her to find during the tour. Instead, a more determined look of stubborn machinations had appeared on her face; Lydia could surmise Anna was trying to figure out another way Frances could stay on the farm.
Anna only looked at them.
Del leaned across the table in Anna’s direction, seeing the same determination on Anna’s face that Lydia had. She said, quietly and pointedly, to her niece, “Anna, there is no other way. Do you understand?”
“Aunt Del’s right, Anna; it’s the most compassionate thing to do. You’ve got to see that now, don’t you?” Rae asked, gently.
Anna’s continuing silence prompted Lydia to take her hand and look into her daughter’s eyes. “It’s time, Anna. There’s Amelia to think about. That’s where your attention should be. That’s why these
places exist: to take care of people like Frances, so that people like you—and Amelia—can live a normal life.”
Tiffany, in an efficient but unintrusive manner, shuffled the paperwork back into its fancy folder. Softly, she said, “We do realize how difficult this decision can be, and we want you to feel comfortable. So, how about I draw up the paperwork? That’ll take a couple of days, and you can all take that time to commit to it. A small deposit will hold the unit for a month. How does that sound?”
“That sounds ridiculous!” Del responded—not to Tiffany, but to Anna. “This damn thing needs to be done today! Now, Anna!”
“Now, Del—” Lydia started.
“No! This has to be said. Anna needs to get a handle on reality!” Del threw a dark glance at her older sister. “Here’s the thing, Anna. Rae and I are leaving at the end of the week. I’m assuming Lydia wants to go back to Santa Fe, and Patty’s leaving tomorrow for the Keys. So then what? Fucking then what, Anna?”
Lydia stood. “OK, stop, everybody.” Looking at Tiffany, Lydia said, “We’d like you to get the paperwork in order,” and handed her the deposit check she’d already written up.
They’d been silent on the drive back to the farm. Each had retreated to her own room without a word to the others. All were sad and frustrated and angry, but only Anna was confused. She’d fed and rocked Amelia on the balcony for a long time, thinking and not thinking. Trying to do the right thing isn’t always easy, she’d decided. She noticed there was singing coming from below, and she heard the voices of her aunts lifting from the kitchen window. She heard laughter and giggles, too. Oh, lord. Have they all gotten into the pot again? she wondered. Carrying Amelia in her basket, Anna went down to the kitchen.
The radio was playing and all the sisters, including Frances, were dancing and singing to the music. Patty was twirling with a joint hanging from her lips and a bottle of wine raised above her head. She waved to Anna. Del and Rae were dancing back to back, and Lydia held Frances’ hands as they two stepped. Anna placed Amelia’s basket on the nearby settee and did a little hop-step into the group. She imagined this as a scene from their girlhoods, picturing their younger selves dancing right here, listening to the very same radio—maybe even the very same station and songs. Frances spun to Patty, took a hit off the joint, then spun again to Anna, who laughed with her mother as they twisted together. Anna spun Frances off to Del and began dancing with Rae. After the third song had finished, they all plopped themselves into chairs around the table, having exhausted themselves.
“Oh, God…Remember when we would dance all night in the kitchen together? What fun we had,” Rae said.
“Especially after Daddy and Mama were gone. I hate to say it, but things got better for us, didn’t they?” Patty asked the sisters, who were scrutinizing her. “Seriously; when they…left , we were all so much happier. Don’t you think?”
“I do,” Del said. “I’ll admit it, I think things got a whole lot less complicated after all that business.”
“I just can’t believe these old bones can still click together to a tune and not fall apart,” Lydia said, redirecting the conversation. She took a long drink of water, then added, “Must be this old wrinkly skin holding them together.”
“Muscle and nerve memory is interesting,” Anna said. “Like when you hear a specific song, it can take you right back to the time you first heard it, or danced to it, or fell in love to it.” She got up from the table and went to the fridge for a drink. “Anybody want anything to drink? Mom, can I make you a drink?” Anna asked over her shoulder. When Frances didn’t answer, she turned around to see Frances was absent from the table. “Where’s Mom?” Anna slammed the fridge door closed.
The group searched the kitchen in a glance to see that Frances was missing.
Anna looked to the empty settee, where she’d set the baby basket earlier. “Where’s Amelia?”
They turned over chairs in the haste of their rising. Each woman took off in a different direction through the house. Upstairs, downstairs, through the parlor, through the Studio, and onto the back deck they raced, each calling Frances’ name.
All of them landed in the entry at the same time and shot out the front door, tumbling off the porch. They searched the nearby landscape in a circular pattern, covering the lane, the yard, the woods…They had started towards the barn when Lydia spotted Frances, sitting on the dock at the pond. She called her name and began her ascent up the path, heading towards the gazebo; the others followed first with their gazes, then ran to join her. Lydia stopped, holding out her arms like a gate. Anna and the sisters bumped into her and each other, freezing. They all saw the Moses basket floating in the pond, and Frances kicking her feet in the water while waving to the baby.
They sped to the water in one collective bunch. Lydia did not shed her jacket, jeans, or shoes before diving into the pond. Rae grabbed Anna to keep her from following Lydia while Del ran to the dock, lifted Frances by her hair and armpits, and began dragging her away. She was screaming at her sister, terrified and crying. They stood stock-still, holding a collective breath, as they watched Lydia carefully near the rocking basket. She heard Amelia mewing inside, caught a glimpse of waving feet and wiggling toes, and reached a slow hand to the basket. She was in over her head, treading water while trying not to disturb the unsteady cradle. Able to gently push the basket ahead, she and the baby floated carefully to shore. Anna broke from Rae’s hold, reached to the water and grabbed the basket first try. She lifted a surprisingly dry and cooing baby from the bed, marched past the sisters into the house, and locked herself and her daughter in the apartment, letting the sisters tend to each other.
Patty, who’d stood back smoking a cigarette while her sisters leapt into action, had watched the near tragedy play out before her—not unlike her handling of every tragedy that had played out before her throughout her lifetime, beginning with their father, but not ending with their mother. They’d found Roy, her first husband, in the bottom of his fishing boat. It had sprung a leak and was half full of water by the time they’d turned him face up, an empty whiskey bottle in his hand. Patty’s last husband, Dave, had died of a coronary right before her very eyes, breaking her heart. She considered Dave the best one of all her husbands. These were her tragedies.
They’d changed Frances clothing before trying to calm her with some soup, which she wouldn’t eat. After administering Frances’ insulin, Lydia threw away the empty insulin vial and syringe, then crept back to Frances’ bed, sitting beside her sister. Taking Frances’ hand, she looked into her blank eyes. Lydia could tell that Frances had no idea who she was, but was smiling expectantly nonetheless.
“I love you, sister,” Lydia whispered, hoping for the words to be returned, but the vacant stare Frances held since she’d been dragged away from the pond was one that Lydia thought would remain forever. She stroked Frances’ damp forehead, remembering the baby, the little girl, the calf-wrangler, teenager,
and mother Frances had been. Lydia pressed her lips to Frances’ forehead, tears streaming down her face. “I’m so sorry, baby sister. I’m so very sorry.” Frances fell asleep in Lydia’s arms.
They gathered in the kitchen around the table. Anna and her aunts were all very quiet, still shaken from the afternoon’s episode at the pond. No one said a word while they waited for Lydia, who emerged from the pantry carrying a mason jar of clear moonshine and a sleeve of paper cups.
“I think we can all use a little kick of this. Don’t you agree, ladies?” Lydia poured carefully and passed around the cups. She filled hers last and lifted it first. “Here’s lookin’ atcha, ’cuz that’s all I’ve got in me right now.” She saluted and slammed back the shot.
They all downed the first one, and sipped the next.
Anna looked at them, and cleared her throat. She said softly, “I’m sorry. I am so, so sorry.” It was all she could get out before tears brimmed. Every time she pictured the reed basket floating on the pond, she wanted to vomit; she’d never been so scared in her life. When she closed her eyes, trying not to think it, she couldn’t help but wonder what would’ve happened had they found Frances even three minutes later, or after the basket had flipped. Ugh, she thought, knowing she couldn’t help that she was on the edge of a full-blown freak out. Lydia reached over and took her hand. She seemed to have been reading Anna’s mind.
“Everything—You hear me? Everything is just fine.” Lydia soothed. “The baby is fine, you are fine, we’re all fine…and in a few days, Frances will be fine.”
Anna crumpled into Lydia’s arms and sobbed.
“Look, honey,” Rae said. “We’ll all be here until the apartment is ready for Frances at the end of the week.”
“That’s right; Anna, we won’t abandon you. We’ll stay through to see her settled,” Del said, very gently—especially for Del. “We’ll take turns with Frances. We’ll be on shifts ’til it’s time.”
Anna nodded and blew her nose. “I know she can’t stay here. I think I’ve known it all along, it’s just…well…she’s my mom…” was all Anna could say.
Lydia looked around the table. “Someone should sleep in the room with Frances. We can take turns, starting tonight. Any takers?”
“Not me,” Del said. “No offense, but as you can tell, I don’t have the patience. Not for a nighttime shift, anyway. I’ll do barn duty with her. You know: she finds the egg, I re-hide it…takes hours. That’s what I’ve got in me.”
“Well, if I’m going to be on shift, I’m going to need my sleep tonight. I am wrung out. It should be Patty, anyway,” Rae said.
“Me? Why me?”
“Because you haven’t done a damn thing since you got here. You didn’t want to even talk about the nursing home for Frances, never mind visit it.”
“Hey! Somebody had to stay here with her.”
“And today,” Rae complained, “all you did was stand there smoking while your great-niece was floating in the middle of the pond!”
“Look, you all seemed to have it under control. Lydia did what Lydia always does: charge to the rescue! And Del went off on Frances, which is the kind of thing Del has always done. You made sure Anna
didn’t dive in after Lydia, which was your kind of thing to do. Me? I wait to see where I’m needed. What do you want from me?”
“To take the first night shift with Frances,” Del said, and got up. “I’m going to bed.”
“Fine,” Patty said, “I’ll be glad to get it out of the way.”
They turned off lights, locked up doors, and headed to their respective rooms.
Lydia turned the key in the lock to Frances’ room. She and Patty tiptoed inside, then pulled out sheets, blankets, and an extra pillow from the closet. “Here, I’ll help make up the little cot for you,” she said. “We brought it in here the first night we brought Frances home from Maine. Anna and I took turns until she seemed OK to sleep through the night. It’s not bad. Mattress is comfy.”
“I’ll be fine. I’ve slept on worse, believe me,” Patty said.
After they’d finished, Lydia turned to Patty. “The little fridge here is mostly for Frances’ insulin, but there’s water, juice, some snacks, and fruit in it if either of you need it.” She looked over at Frances, sound asleep thanks to a double dose of the sedative Lydia had given her earlier. “I think she’s out for the night.”
Patty followed Lydia’s gaze. “I hope you’re right. I’d like a good sleep.”
Lydia turned at the threshold. “I’m going to lock you in. You OK with that?”
“You gonna let me out in the morning?” Patty sort of teased.
“Of course. Well…that is, if I don’t lose the key,” Lydia said, and laughed. “’Night, Pats…and thanks.”
The next morning, Lydia was up early. Tapping lightly on Frances’ door, she turned the key and entered the darkened room. Frances was turned on her side, deeply tucked and snuggled under the covers. Lydia tiptoed to Patty, on the cot. She too was sound asleep, and snoring softly. Lydia gently shook her shoulder, and Patty turned, squinted, and tried to get her bearings.
“Lydia? What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. It’s early, I admit, but I wanted to see if you needed me to take over.”
“And you woke me up for this?”
“I know; I see the absurdity in it now. Want me to bring you some coffee?”
“Is my shift over?” Patty looked at Frances. “She OK?”
“Sleeping still. Probably traumatized about yesterday.”
“Aren’t we all?” Patty sat up and slung her feet over the side of the cot. She went into the bathroom, not closing the door to do her business. She asked, “Is it cold outside? It feels cold in here.”
“A little frosty this morning. Why?”
“I want to go have a smoke, and I don’t have a jacket,” she said coming out of the bathroom.
“Here, take my sweater,” Lydia said peeling it off, and handing it to her sister. “I’ll takeover here.”
“I’ll bring you coffee when I come back up,” Patty said, and closed the door behind her.
Lydia had fallen asleep on the cot in Frances’ room. It wasn’t Patty returning with coffee that had awakened her with a start, but something else. Something frightening, she guessed, since her heart was racing. She sat up and placed her hand against her breast, attempting to slow her heartbeat with a few deep breaths while allowing her eyes to adjust to the dim light of the room. What had awakened her so abruptly? She heard voices and movement down below. Peering at her watch, she saw it was nearly nine;
she’d slept quite a bit, and saw a cup of coffee by the clock on the little night stand. It was cold. She steadied her breathing and cocked her head like a hound dog, listening to…nothing. That’s when it dawned on her; she was hearing only her own breath. No sound came from Frances, who was in the same position she’d been in earlier, when Lydia had relieved Patty of her duties. She crept closer to her sister.
“Frances?” Lydia placed her hand on her sister’s shoulder, bending to see her face—but she was on her side, and her head was deep in her pillow. Lydia shook her sister’s shoulder, but nothing felt right. Frances was rigid. Lydia backed away, dismayed. How many dead bodies can one discover in a lifetime? she wondered. Lydia turned and started banging on the locked door. Panic set in; when no rescue seemed coming, she started kicking the door and yelling. It took a few minutes for the sisters to reach her, but by then Lydia—strong, stalwart Lydia—was sitting on the floor with her back against Frances’ bedstead, in a heap of sobbing choking tears. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to understand what was happening. Del stepped over Lydia and climbed onto Frances’ bed. She tried for a pulse, a breath, any faint sign of life, but finally the cold of her sister’s skin told her the situation was hopeless.
Del looked at Rae and Patty. “She’s gone.”
Earlier, Anna had left to take Amelia to her doctor’s appointment; she said she would be errand running for awhile afterwards. Lydia had learned this while rocking with her coffee on the porch, waiting for the ambulance and Doc Morton to show up. Lydia wasn’t sure whether to call Anna, just let them take Frances, or make them wait until Anna returned so she could say one last goodbye. Oh, hell; who knows what’s the right thing to do? she thought. Lydia had called Tasha, who always knew the right thing to do—but all she could offer was “Sometimes it’s OK to do nothing, let it unfold itself. You’ll know what to do soon enough.” Which may have been the truth, but certainly wasn’t the right thing.
The doctor had arrived with the ambulance, conducted his exam of Frances, and directed the medics to take her body to the ambulance. He’d spoken quietly with the sisters, most of whom he’d known since they were kids in high school together. He’d assured them that the kind of shock Frances had endured the day before, the trauma of it, the stress on her heart, was unlikely to be the cause of death. “With dementia,” he said thoughtfully, “sometimes, the whole body just forgets how to work.” And with that, he left the sisters to their grieving—all except Patty.
“I’m outta here!” Patty announced, stepping onto the porch as the green and yellow airport shuttle pulled up.
“What?!” Del and Rae shouted together. They were sitting on the porch with Lydia, waiting for Anna to get home. “What do you mean, you’re outta here?”
Patty hefted a bright orange duffle bag. She was dressed in flip flops, a tank top, and Bermuda shorts. “You heard me. I made my flight reservation this morning. I was lucky; I didn’t think I’d get one ’til tomorrow…but there’s room on the four-oh-five, turns out!”
“Patty, Frances just died. Anna doesn’t even know yet. Aren’t you even going to stay to bury your own sister?”
“Nope. I’m gonna leave that to all you weepy campers.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Look, you all can sit here twistin’ your tissues, bawling your eyes out, bein’ all sad Frances is dead if you want to, but not me. If you ask me, couldn’t be better timing. If you ask me, Frances is in a better place than she’d ever be, in some damn facility where nobody knows your name—not even you. Nope, I’m happy for her. And so, no; I don’t care to sit around cryin’ over spilled milk.” She hugged each of her sisters, and made her way down the steps. “Tell Anna I love her, and tell her to bring that baby down to see her auntie and granny in the Keys.”
“Well, I’ll be,” Rae said.
“You’ll be what?” Del asked.
“I don’t know, but I’ll be. I think Patty might be the most selfish person I’ve ever met in my whole life,” Rae said.
“People don’t change,” Lydia said. “Not really.”
Thankfully, there was no time to continue the conversation as Anna’s Jeep came bumping down the lane. She tooted the horn and waved to them.
“Oh, Lord; here we go,” Del said.
They’d held the funeral at the farm. It was a small gathering. Just the sisters, except Patty, and Judith, Josh, and Little Mike attended, and an old friend of Lydia’s, Carol: a newly-minted, computer-based priestess who’d only performed weddings up until this, her first funeral. She said nice things that no one really heard and recited an ancient prayer that no one really knew, finally lifting her arms to the heavens, beseeching a God no one really believed in to take care of their sister.
Del and Rae left for the airport right after the funeral. No one shed tears at this parting; they’d all been spent these last few weeks. Both the sisters and their niece were glad they were leaving. Once they were gone, Lydia, Amelia, and Anna were alone together. Anna thought the house seemed empty, and a little sad. It was the same way she’d felt after all the old gals had gone for good last spring, which felt like a lifetime ago—and she guessed it had been. Anna was hoping Lydia would stay a little longer; having her near was a comfort, she’d found, since Frances’ passing.
Sitting on the balcony rocking Amelia after her meals was becoming a ritual she shared with her daughter. Anna pictured them eating bowls of cereal before school when Amelia got older, and they could actually speak in full sentences to one another. For now, Anna pointed to the birds and named their songs for the baby whose eyes were just beginning to focus. Anna told Amelia big stories, and she watched the contortions of her daughter’s mouth as she began to attempt small, expressive responses to her mother’s words. Anna hadn’t quite figured them out yet, but reacted to each gurgle and coo with the same astounded surprise and delight. Lydia was right; everything was fine, even when it wasn’t. Anna was learning to accept that: accept that life has a way of rolling in regardless of our plans, and all any of us can do is respond to it with our better selves.
Anna heard the back door open and slam close, and saw Lydia step onto the lawn. She was wearing her favorite pink and gray sweater. It sure is chilly enough for it this morning, Anna thought, watching her mother—yes, her mother—make her way to the barn, to her cows: those big beautiful bossies who’d saved her life, those many years ago. Oh, maybe not the same ones, but ones like them. They’d brought Lydia and now Anna comfort, respite, and joy. Anna thought she would keep cows and chickens for Amelia—
and herself, she admitted. Maybe there would be soft, wooly, pet lambs in their future, too. She could picture Amelia romping with lambs and chickens and cows. Anna could imagine that, and it made her smile.
Lydia had decided to take one last moment with her cows. She’d made her plane reservations for the next morning, although she hadn’t told Anna yet. She knew her daughter—yes, her daughter—wanted her to stay longer. But she was missing Tasha, and feeling the aching in her joints that this damp cold morning inspired, even with her sweater buttoned up to her throat. She caught a whiff of cigarette in its yarn, and remembered that Patty had last worn it the morning Frances had died. Lydia had never been a smoker, but she didn’t mind the smell—it reminded her of Patty, and that was somehow comforting.
Lydia stopped by each stall, petting the soft muzzles and looking into big curious eyes. Oh, how she loved them; her only regret about Santa Fe was not being able to see her cows each morning. Tasha had rescued a little black and white cat and named her Vache, which was French for ‘cow,’ but it didn’t quite translate for Lydia. Funny, she thought, the things we women do to make each other and ourselves happy. Little things, selfish things, inadvertent things…but more often determined things—things that help us forget, help us cope, and help us remember. And then there are those things done in desperation: silence and secrets, befriending and betraying, lovingly lying to protect us and save us from and for ourselves. Women do and have always done these things.
Lydia stepped backwards, a few feet away from the cows and into the middle of the barn. She slowly turned in a 360, taking in every small part of its dusty sweetness. Particles of the whole farm floated in sunbeams squeezing through cracks. She eyed the chickens, squatting fat and happy on the eggs in their nests. A small tilt of her head, and she listened to swallows swooping across rafters. When she’d come full circle, she closed her eyes, breathed in slowly, and slid her hands into the pockets of her sweater. In the right pocket, she felt the butt of the cigarette Patty had smoked that last morning before she left. At least she didn’t throw it on the ground, Lydia thought. In her left pocket, her fingers absently smoothed a small cold, glass bottle.
She pulled out the empty insulin vial and syringe. Staring at them in her palm, as if they’d come alive and were dancing on the flat of her hand like cobras, she tried to wrap her mind around their appearance in her sweater pocket. Lydia thought of Frances’ last night alone with Patty. It wasn’t so hard to imagine, going back to the beginning: to Patty and Mama. Lydia slid back the big door, squinting against the blinding sunlight.
She tossed the empty vial and needle into the trash bin as she left the barn.
Thank you, Cynn Chadwick and RABT Book Tours and PR
About the author
Cynn Chadwick is an author of seven novels: Cat Rising; Girls With Hammers; Babies, Bikes, and Broads; Cutting Loose; Angels and Manners; As The Table Turns; and That’s Karma, Baby… Her books have been nominated for the Lambda, Golden Crown, and Stonewall Literary Awards. Over the course of her career, she has done readings and speaking engagements including: Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans, The Authors’ Arena at Book Expo America in Chicago, Human Rights Campaign Headquarters, DC, AWP in Atlanta, Amelia Island Book Festival, FL, Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville and UNCA are just a few of her past speaking and reading engagements. She holds a BA from Norwich University and both an MA and MFA from Goddard College in Vermont. Over the last, nearly, thirty years, she taught creative writing to fifth-graders and senior citizens, teachers and homeless teens, college students and convicted felons and have been equally touched by each of their stories. She lives with her wife Elenna and their Springer Spaniel, The Amazing Andy, in the Blue Ridge Mountains is where she taught in the English Department and Creative Writing program at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.