Before I could read or write on my own, music was how I accessed and expressed emotions; it was my first love. My mom says the only way she could get me to stop crying as a baby was to put me in the car and play Joni Mitchell. She also sang to me a lot, and some of my safest memories are filled with lullabies in her voice, soothing me after a fall or before bed. Later, I would sing those same lullabies to my little sister.
For most of my youth, I wanted to be a rock star or an actress; thought performing was my destiny. My dad was a drummer in a band and his best friend had a recording studio in his garage, so my sister and I recorded our first original song at the ages of six and four called, “I Got the Baby Blues, Baby.” I sang in choirs, acted in school plays, performed in musicals, and in sixth grade snagged the lead in a church play in which I was onstage for the entire show and had a six minute solo that I performed at a conference in LA for hundreds of people. It was exhilarating, the live performance, feeling the audience react, and I loved every minute of it.
Even with my focus on singing and theater, it’s not like I didn’t write. I wrote new lyrics to songs tunes I knew and sang them to myself in the shower. I kept a detailed journal. In junior high I started writing poetry, bad rhymes at first that morphed into prose poems that got published in my high school’s literary magazine. In college I took a few workshops in poetry and fiction, and I even wrote for a school paper for about five minutes, but I saw no way to make a career as a writer. An actress who sang seemed to have so much potential as a way to be creative and still make money, so I remained a theater major.
A few years into acting classes at UCSC, performing began to lose its luster. I became less interested in being the subject of the story and more interested in creating the story. More and more I took on the role of producer or writer in theater class projects—I penned one spoof of Waiting for Godot set in ancient Greece with the people waiting for the Gods that I’m particularly proud of—and I couldn’t stop taking creative writing classes or writing poems in the margins of my notebooks. Finally, it was my mom, after reading one of the stories I’d written for class who said, “Forget acting. This is what you should do.” She was right. Soon after, I changed my major to English.
Now, writing is primarily how I access and express my emotions, how I deal with the world, but music remains a close second. And luckily for me, I’ve been able to make a career out of being a writer.