Raised in a quiet rural corner of western New York State, I didn’t always want to be a writer. I was, however, always surrounded by books. Bookcases in every room. Entire walls of them. My mother was an avid reader and regular trips to the library were part of my childhood. My stepfather was a creative writing professor and words floated through the rooms and into the nooks and crannies of that pre-Civil War era farmhouse. Books weren’t my escape so much as they were part of my daily diet. At twenty I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish and “write a book” was on it. That list included both measurable things like “learn five foreign languages” and “complete a significant athletic achievement” and less quantifiable items like “make the world a better place.” During the Cold War of my high school and college years, I very much wanted to help reduce the possibility of conflict between the US and the USSR.
I earned a bachelor’s degree at Purdue University, and then continued my Russian studies at the Pushkin Russian Language Institute in Moscow. I studied Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, received a Master’s in 1982 and started a career in public service with the US Department of Defense. My work in the Office of the Secretary of Defense focused on European security issues between NATO, Warsaw Pact, and neutral nations. While at the Pentagon I helped negotiate the Conference on Disarmament in Europe, the first security agreement of the Gorbachev era. At the Stockholm talks as we often called the CDE, a number of my European colleagues jokingly called me the “Iron Maiden of Stockholm” in a not altogether flattering reference to British PM Margaret Thatcher, the original tough-as-nails female negotiator. The many months I spent crafting an agreement with diplomats from thirty-five nations, sitting at a table alongside NATO colleagues and opposite Soviet and Warsaw Pact counterparts, was my great honor.
After this heady time, I put most of my energy into raising a large family (requiring its own negotiating skills). Funny enough, having a family was not on that list and yet today I would say without hesitation that the most impactful (and most difficult) thing I’ve ever done is raise four children. I lived in several countries, including the former Soviet Union, Belgium, Sweden, Singapore, and Germany. Throughout adulthood I’ve been a committed runner. I’ve completed dozens of marathons in more than twenty countries, including the fifty-six-mile Comrades Marathon in South Africa. I eventually landed in the wonderful and welcoming city of Portland, Oregon as a single parent. There, I coached high school cross country and track at a large public high school before deciding it wasn’t too late to dust off that forty-year-old list and write a book.
I now divide my time between Portland and Washington, DC, but also travel for fun, for research, and best of all, to visit my children and grandchildren.