My personal bio: I moved to Michigan from Chicago. I craved open spaces, rural experiences, solitude. I live there now with my partner, Doreen Bartoni. I also come from a close-knit family. We always talked about dreams and goals at the dinner table. Sometimes we ended up sharing our dreams. After I moved here, my mother went and bought a family vacation compound, two houses on acreage, with a swimming pool, across the street from me, so that the entire family could come up and share in my solitude.
There’s a swamp a few miles down the road. I like to go there, park the car and read. I’ve read Roxane Gay there, Eula Biss, Ryan Van Meter. I reread Fitzgerald there. I reread Marjorie Kinnan Rawling’s Cross Creek there, which takes place in a Florida swamp. After reading, I get out of the car and put on rubber boots. I’ll walk through the swamp.
The swamp blooms before the earth does. It’s good to know in March when the snow is still melting and you want to see something green.
Here’s an idiosyncrasy: I like breakfast at McDonald’s. Sometimes I’ll eat breakfast in my car at the swamp.
Hobbies: I’ve had koi fish. They outgrew my small pond. After 4 years they were two feet long. I was tempted to put them in the swamp. Instead I put them in the larger pond at the family vacation compound. I visit the koi who circle under the dock when I visit my family. I can sit for hours and look at water. Water in ponds, or swamps, or Lake Michigan nearby. The blue of a swimming pool might be my favorite—but I’m not a very good swimmer.
Other than walking the swamp, I like to bike out to the cornfields. I have a twenty mile loop that a biking friend nicknamed Stonehenge because of the huge, solitary cows that stand in the fields out there. It’s also unreal, to see the cows, and then out of the corner of my eye, to catch a bird flying at the same velocity at which I bike.
Junk food: At night I like to watch kick-ass shows on the Syfy channel that feature women protagonists. I own three seasons of The Bionic Woman; it really went downhill when they brought in Max, the bionic dog.
Pets: We have a dog, a golden retriever. Her best trick is balancing a coaster on her head. We also have a rescue cat, Sydney. In the back acreage is buried our rescue chicken, Annie, who lived with us for five years after being “captured” by a friend who pulled over when she saw the chicken walking across a casino parking lot.
Other things about me: I buy all my cars used. They’re luxury cars that I buy cheaply and this is my Achilles heel. However, I go for dependable luxury so that they’re not so expensive to maintain. I once owned a Lexus that Oprah owned. This is at the beginning of the Lexus brand and at the beginning of Oprah.
Places on my list to visit: Kyoto, Cambodia, India, Bali.
Parenting: I have been a foster parent. My foster child is now a parent. Doreen and I act as mentors to youth locally.
What I read: I read my students’ work, and it’s inspiring and amazing. I can go back and reread forever: Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America, Kate Braverman’s Small Craft Warnings. And the Initial Five I fell in love with in graduate school: Marguerite Duras, Tennessee Williams, Toni Morrison, Carson McCullers, J.D. Salinger. Plus the Russian Three: Dostoyevsky, Lermontov, Turgenev. I like parataxis, the repeating refrain of certain lines: Dicken’s, “It was the best of times. . . “; Didion, “We tell ourselves stories in order to live. . . “; Kerouac, the roman candle quote, “The only people for me are the mad ones. . .”
Food I would bring to a desert island if I only had one food to choose: Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza. Then I would chop up all the veggies on the island, and put it on the pizza. I think this is so brilliant.