My Story

Me, age eight, rocking my groovy rainbow-striped shirt.

Me, age eight, rocking my groovy rainbow-striped shirt.

I first realized I wanted to be a writer when I was eight years old and living with my dad, mom, and younger sister in Brea, California, a Los Angeles suburb. I spent my days reading, watching TV, scribbling stories, trying to catch lizards in my yard, and pretending to be Laura Ingalls Wilder and Harriet the Spy. I thought I wanted to be a horse trainer when I grew up. The closest I'd gotten to a horse was playing with plastic horse figurines and reading Black Beauty, but that seemed like plenty of experience to me.

I had the most beautiful teacher that year, a vibrant young woman named Mrs. Sarthou. She wore flowered sundresses and smiled a lot and read to us out loud from The Hobbit. It was bliss for a kid like me.

One day Mrs. Sarthou asked me if I ever thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up. I told her about my horse-training plan. She nodded and said, "Well, you know, Carrie, as much as you like to read and write, I wondered if you might like to be a writer some day."

I'd never thought about the fact that books were written by actual, living people—or that I could be one of those people. From that time on, I knew what I wanted to be. Thanks, Mrs. Sarthou! 

That doesn't mean I haven't had many doubts and insecurities over the years. Even though I studied writing in college and graduate school, I've also had long stretches of feeling scared my writing wasn't good enough to show anyone and feeling frustrated by the limits of my own ideas and abilities. I published stories in literary magazines and won prizes, but I also endured long stretches of feeling creatively stuck.

I married my research scientist husband Brian in 2000 and gave birth to our son Bridger in 2002. Our daughter Cassidy arrived in 2005. When I was pregnant with Bridger, I'd worried about how motherhood would affect my creativity, but I was shocked to find out that motherhood made me more creative, not less. I became less afraid of making mistakes and looking stupid. I didn't waste time waiting for perfect creative conditions or inspiration—I got down to business and wrote. I grew more courageous about showing my writing to other people and listening to their feedback. Instead of agonizing about my limitations, I humbled myself to do the work of making my stories as good as I could make them.

I've published my writing in CALYXThe Laurel ReviewSlow Trains, Literary Mama, and the anthologies Riding Shotgun: Women Write About Their Mothers and The Saint Paul Almanac, and I've won grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board and the Jerome Foundation, as well as an honorable mention for a Pushcart Prize. My work about silent movies has appeared in The Twin Cities Daily Planet, The Silent Film Quarterly, and on the Kansas Silent Film Festival website. I also blog about homeschooling and unschooling for Home/School/Life magazine. I live and write in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I feel lucky to be part of an amazing community of writers.

In 2012, I started research on a book about the silent film comedian Charlie Chaplin for teens. That research has led me to all sorts of amazing places, including the streets of South London where Chaplin grew up, the Hollywood back alleys and the studio lots where he filmed his silent comedies, and the Chaplin Archive in Bologna, Italy. It's been an amazing ride.

I love the way writing narrative nonfiction lets me satisfy my curiosity about the world, learn new things, and explore new places and times. I'm a sucker for stories about underdogs who have stuck to their convictions even when other people tell them they're doomed to fail. I hope by telling stories about these persistent, doggedly stubborn survivors, I can inspire readers to listen to their hearts and trust themselves, too.