How did you learn to be a writer?

This may surprise you, but other than one poetry class, I never took a creative writing class as an undergrad. (An undergrad is a person who is in their first four years of college). And here’s why–it’s because I was too scared! Back then, all that mattered was getting good grades. I found that if I studied a lot, I usually got pretty high scores on my tests and quizzes. But what would happen if I wrote a story? When it comes to creative writing, there’s no right or wrong answer which meant I couldn’t guarantee a perfect grade. So, I didn’t take writing classes, a choice which I now very much regret.

But luckily, once I figured out I wanted to be a writer, I had the opportunity to go to college again. This time, writing was all I did. I didn’t care about getting the best grades this time. I just wanted to learn how to form stories and create characters and build worlds that felt so real you could taste them. So, I tried all different kinds of writing. I messed up a lot and some of my drafts were not so good. But that didn’t matter to me anymore. I was learning how to do something that I loved.

Did you want to be a writer when you were a kid? Was that always your dream?

Actually, no. I kind of wish it had been. I can imagine the headline now: Local Woman Fulfills Lifelong Dream of Becoming a Published Author! But alas, when I was a kid, I didn’t think much about authors at all. Books were just these things I read at school and got at the library. I didn’t know that REAL people actually wrote them!

When I was younger, I actually wanted to be an elementary school teacher, just like my mom. Then, for a month or so in high school, I wanted to be a chemist because I had a really great teacher who made chemistry so fun. Then, we moved on to more advanced problems, and I found out that chemistry was really hard*.  So, I went back to wanting to be an elementary school teacher. (And that’s what I did for six whole years until I rekindled my love for writing stories.)

*DEAR KIDS: Puh-leeeease do not think I’m telling you to give up on your dreams when things get a little hard. But also, don’t think that just because you decided something was your dream that you have to stick with it forever. The question you need to ask yourself is: do I love what I’m doing? In my case, Mandy PLUS Chemistry DID NOT EQUAL Love. So, I gave it up. Writing is also hard a lot of the time, but I love it so much, I actually enjoy the challenge it brings.

What did you like to do as a kid?

Even though I didn’t ever think about being an author when I was a kid, I still loved to write. I have quite a few stories I wrote throughout elementary school. And believe it or not, back then I even had a writing style. I loved stories that made me question the nature of reality so I wrote stories that had a surprise at the end that made them feel true (even though they were fantastical).

Don’t you wish you could read some of those stories that I wrote as a kid? Well, now you can. Please enjoy them in all their unrevised/unedited glory. Click here to read some of those stories.

What about now? What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Photography. I like taking pictures and working with my pictures almost as much as writing (which is saying a lot)! To me, writing and photography are very similar endeavors. Both are forms of art where the creator is trying to capture a feeling. In writing, I use words. In photography, I use light. Unless I’m actually in the photo, most of the pictures I use on my website were taken by me.

In addition to photography, I also love to play games, especially with my partner Tony. In fact, when we’re just hanging out, that’s what we do most of the time. We play both video games and board games. Our favorite video game is an MMO, which means that tons of people around the world play at the same time, and you can interact with them in the game. I play a mage, which means I’m like a wizard who can cast spells. My favorite part of the game is being able to fly.

When it comes to board games, I love simple party games like Telestrations because everyone can lounge on the couch while they play. (I’m a huge fan of lounging.) I also enjoy tabletop games like Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne. In fact, Tony and I love games so much, we’re creating one of our own! It’s called Forestation, and you play as a tree who’s sending her seeds out into the world and trying to grow new trees in different formations. Someday, we hope to publish the game so other people (like you) can play it, too!

Do you have any pets?

Why yes I do! Cats, cats, cats. Actually, cat, cat, cat, cat. We have two sets of cat siblings (four total) living in our house with us. The two oldest cats are Kurzon, a white and orange boy, and Jadzia, a tabby girl. Funny names, huh? They’re actually named after characters from the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

The younger set of cats are Guybrush, a big black and white boy, and Flash, a small black girl. Flash got her name because she moves so fast that she’s gone in a flash. Also, since her fur is black, sometimes it’s really hard to see her. Guybrush got his name from the adventure game Monkey Island, which is quite possibly my favorite video game of all time. In the game, Guybrush Threepwood is the name of the main character who is supposed to be a mighty pirate, but he’s really kind of the opposite of one. Guybrush the cat is also the opposite of a mighty pirate as all he does is lay around in sunspots and try to get you to feed him.

Can you guess which cat is in the picture above? She loves to “help” me write my books.

I read somewhere that salad is your favorite food. Is that really true? What’s your favorite kind of salad?

You better believe it’s true! As a connoisseur of all things salad, forcing me to choose just one is like telling a kid to pick just one flavor of ice cream. (It’s so hard!) I can’t eat much ice cream though, due to my dairy allergy, which is one of the reasons I love salad so much. I don’t know if I could call this my favorite-of-all-time favorite (since I like so many kinds), but for me, it doesn’t get much better than a bed of shredded lettuce topped with diced tomatoes, onions, green peppers, eggs, bacon bits, and drizzled with a thick honey French dressing. I’ve been known to make this kind of dressing myself when the mood strikes me. And let me tell you, it is darn good.

The other day my mom and I were imagining what it would be like to be rich and were dreaming of all the amazing things we could have in our houses. What I’d want would be a 24-hour salad bar that’s always stocked and fresh and ready to eat. That way, if I wanted a salad at 2:00 am, I could get a salad at 2:00 am. To me, a house with a salad bar would be the best house ever.