My father was 72 years old (easily old enough to be my grandfather) when I was born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950; my mother was 37. When I was about four, I wrote my first story (about a mouse who pushed a cannon up the stairs and fired it on his worst enemy). My mother died just before I entered eighth grade, and I took on the role of housekeeper and companion to my aging father.
In 1968, I graduated from high school and, with the help of a four-year Senatorial Scholarship and a small PTA Scholarship, moved on to Towson University. Less than a year later, I dropped out of college to take care of my father. Finally, in 1975, with my brother’s support, I completed my bachelor’s degree (summers, evenings, junior year in France), with double majors: English and French.
Just before heading out to UMass/Amherst to start on my MFA in fiction, I received Towson U’s John S. Lewis Fiction Award for a collection of my stories. The elderly but very dapper senior English professor, the eponymous John S. Lewis, presented the award, along with the $50 prize (the only money I’ve ever earned for my fiction). Professor Lewis advised me, very sagely, to “write about what you know.”
Imagine how star-struck I was when he told me he had been Conrad Aiken’s roommate at Harvard! In 1978, I completed my MFA in Imaginative Writing—Fiction. But then “life” intervened with marriage, a son, divorce, a second marriage, and a 30-year career at Johns Hopkins. So now, with great excitement, I embark on publishing my first novel, At the Far End of Nowhere (where everything begins).