I live in a very remote area of the Pacific Northwest where we do not have telephones, not even cell phones! Don't worry, we’re not some kind of crazy isolationists, and I have not always lived such an insular life. I was born in Bogotá, Colombia where my mom was on a Fulbright scholarship and my dad was working on various social justice causes. After that exotic start, I landed in the suburbs, in Riverside, California, sixty miles east of Los Angeles. A bookish kid who liked sports but knew nothing about the outdoors, I never camped until, as a teenager, I traveled to Oregon and — well, there's no other way to say it — I fell in love. I loved the green forests and the blue sky and even the rain, and I swore that, if I ever made it back, I'd never leave. And that's how it worked. Sort of. After college in Oregon, and a short stint at Canyonlands in Utah, I settled for an unsettled life, working each summer maintaining trails in the North Cascades, and moving every winter.
All this time I was writing. Between trail crew seasons, I returned to graduate school to earn a degree in creative writing at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. I started submitting my writing, and my work began to be published, first in small regional journals, then in bigger national magazines. About ten years ago, my partner, Laurie, and I were able to sink some roots. We bought land and built a cabin here in this tiny mountain town. The story of doing so became my first book.
My second book, Test Ride on the Sunnyland Bus: A Daughter’s Civil Rights Journey, was named winner of the 2009 River Teeth literary nonfiction prize. The book explores my father’s involvement in the early civil rights movement, and it’s complicated, in part, by the fact that my dad died when I was eleven. The five-year process of researching and writing the manuscript proved to be an emotional roller coaster, exhausting and ultimately rewarding.
My newest book Potluck: Community on the Edge of Wilderness returns to the Pacific Northwest (with a couple of stops along the way) to explore the ways that our relationships with people and places grow intertwined over time, tangled even. In the very best way.
Because of where I live, I sometimes can't escape the Nature Writer label. But I usually cringe. While, sure, I've been influenced by writers such as John McPhee, Wendell Berry, and Rick Bass, my favorite writers are those from anywhere — everywhere — with razor wits, incisive minds, and generous hearts. I read fiction and poetry. But my first love is nonfiction. I revere Joan Didion and James Baldwin. I follow Henrick Hertzberg in The New Yorker fanatically. And I devour humorists like David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell.
Stehekin is a remote community in the North Cascades in north-central Washington State accessible only by trail, boat, or float plane. We’re surrounded by North Cascades National Park and almost two million acres of federally designated Wilderness (Glacier Peak, Paysayten, Stephen Mather, and Chelan/Sawtooth Wilderness Areas). About a hundred people live here year-round. We get several hundred-degree days each summer and an average of a hundred inches of snow each winter. We have no grocery stores, movie theaters, taverns or churches, but we do have an outstanding bakery, a must-stop for everybody, especially hikers that come through town each year on the Pacific Crest Trail. Come visit. If not for the scenery, for the cinnamon rolls.