I was born in a small town in
Wisconsin to two amazing people who shaped my life with love and encouragement.
I have two brothers, Tim and Bill, who have grown into the kind of men one can
only admire. I am so blessed to have these extraordinary people as my family.
As a young girl, I wanted to
be an archaeologist or paleoanthropologist. I could barely say the words, but I
knew what they did and it sounded like an amazing way to live. My aspirations
changed as I got older, but I never lost my love for this fascinating branch of
Around age 11, I decided to
become an actress. My mom had spent some time as an actress in her youth, and I
had dreams of someday being on the big screen. In my teen years, I fell in love
with directing and decided I would have to do both.
There was one constant in my
ever-shifting idea of "what I should be when I grow up", and that's
writing. From the moment I learned the alphabet, I dove into storytelling with
passionate devotion. Writing was always there for me, regardless of what else
was going on.
In 7th grade, a
friend and I wrote a movie that we were going to send to Hollywood. We thought
it was so amazingly good. I think those were our words, "amazingly
good". Naturally, we had no one to send our opus to (40+ handwritten pages
– oh my! Very ambitious for a couple of 12 yr. olds). We had typed it and
In 9th grade I
wrote a musical with a different friend. This one we performed in the basement,
using our siblings as actors (our 'lead' went on to become a famous opera
singer. Pretty good cast, huh?). I adored singing and writing lyrics, and my
friend knew a handful of chords on the piano, so we were quite the prolific
songwriting team. The musical was the culmination of over a year of tuneful
In high school, yet another
friend and I fell in love with making movies, and we made several films, including
two epics of which we were inordinately proud. The first was "Children at
Play", a moody black & white film noir piece about a woman being
driven insane by her two evil children. The second was a "sweeping
romantic epic", as we always called it, named, "A Handful of
Time". Set in the 40's, it was the story of star-crossed lovers (and it
had every romantic cliché in the book – something we did on purpose. I
have always had a subversive love of clichés).
I attended the University of
Wisconsin – Madison and majored in Communication Arts: Radio/TV/Film. I
had a blast making more movies, and taking screenwriting classes. I was
accepted into an advanced screenwriting class. Professor Lawson accepted me
based on the short story I'd submitted for consideration of admittance. I loved
the class and was so sad when it was over. Happily, Prof. Lawson invited me to
his salon – my very first writer's group! I was overjoyed –
especially since I was the first undergrad he'd ever invited to join. I stayed
in the salon for both my junior and senior years, learning a great deal and
working diligently on a screenplay adaptation of the short story he had so
After graduation, I moved to
Los Angeles with dreams of breaking into show biz. Instead, I pounded the pavement
unsuccessfully, not even able to get hired as a secretary in one of the big
studios. After running through my meager savings, I got a job at a photo
duplication service that made 8x10 glossies for actors. Meanwhile, I
moonlighted as a voice actress, something I discovered on a trip home when I
was asked to do a series of radio commercials doing impersonations of movie
stars. I didn't work a lot as a voice actress, but I got just enough work to
keep me hopeful.
Eventually, I started doing temp
work. It paid the bills and let me write two novels on the side. They are
currently in my closet and will remain there for the rest of my life. I had no
success selling any of my writing work during this period and gradually
switched my focus to voice-over. In the arena of actually making a living, I
ended up working as a technical illustrator for a large aerospace contractor.
The illustrating was fun, but I felt as though my life had gotten off track.
I'd never had any aspirations to be an artist. Continuing to chase my dreams, I
joined a voice-acting workshop led by Joanie Gerber, one of the all-time
In October of 1989, my father
passed away suddenly from a heart attack one day after his 65th
birthday. It was a devastating loss for all of us. Both of his parents lived
until they were 94, so Dad always assumed he would have a very long life. It
was not to be. A few months later, still dealing with my grief, I was invalided
out of my job due to trigger finger & tendonitis in my right hand, the one
that used the mouse and that had spent countless long hours drawing intricate
pictures on the computer of rockets and engines for my job as a technical
Now on worker's comp, I threw
myself into my voice-over studies, making a demo tape and hoping to land an
agent. I did get an agent, but I was underutilized and languished for far too
long without any work. Just as the worker's comp was about to run out, I
inherited some money from my father's estate and was able to continue working
toward a VO career instead of trying to find a job that didn't require one to
use one's hands. VO was hands-free!
I started my own VO workshop,
and although I had stacks of ad copy, I supplemented it by writing my own. Even
though my sole focus was on VO, I still couldn't escape the writer in me.
The best job I landed in
those years was a guest character on Rugrats. I was Ilsa, the Swedish dog 'broomer', and I had a
wonderful time voicing the character. It was one of those "dream come
true" moments for me.
One day, several years later,
I met a couple of my neighbors, named Sherri and Vogue. They were aspiring TV
writers, writing partners and roommates. During yet another VO workshop I had
begun attending, the instructor pulled me aside and asked me if I'd write a
pilot for an animation series. He knew I was a writer and hoped that I was
fast, because he needed it in a week. He had a contact at Hanna-Barberra who
was looking for projects.
I said yes and then panicked.
I didn't know how to write an animation pilot! I hurried over to Sherri and
Vogue's and asked them to help me. They agreed. Over the next week, we worked
like crazy. Well, Sherri and I worked. Vogue just sort of listened or went off
to do his own thing. Amazed at how in tune we were, Sherri and I finished the
entire project in a week. She was actually photocopying the pilot package when
I went to class and she handed it off to me, still hot from the machines,
during a break.
The animation series never
went anywhere because the producer at Hanna-Barbera had been fired that day,
but Sherri and I had found something even more important: we were a great team.
I agreed to be her partner, but I didn't want it to be a three-way partnership
with one member not pulling his weight. I loved Vogue; he was a dear friend,
but in that situation, he wasn't working out. Sherri terminated their
partnership and we joined forces.
After a couple of years of
banging our heads into Hollywood walls, trying to get a break, we finally got
one with the series, "Weird Science". We had a pitch meeting, wrote a
freelance script and were hired as staff writers soon after. On top of the
world, we adored working at Universal Studios, living that Hollywood lifestyle
and doing work that we loved. But it was short-lived. We only had one season on
Although we tried to get
other jobs, Sherri's attention strayed to playing bongos and drums. She had
decided to become a rock star. We split up when she joined a band. Soon after,
she got married to one of the producers of "Will and Grace".
With Sherri and Vogue gone, I
spent some time playing around in the fandom for the show "Xena, Warrior
Princess". I wrote some fanfiction and was amazed at the enthusiastic
support shown in thousands of emails. At the time, I worried that I was wasting
my life, but in hindsight, I know I was really working on improving my
fiction-writing and getting back the self-esteem that was lost after losing the
job at "Weird Science" (they had down-sized the writing staff for the
last season and we had been the last hired).
During this period I got the
opportunity to rewrite Wonder Woman's origin for DC Comics. Yes, I'd loved
comics as a kid and was reintroduced to them as an adult by my friend, Vogue.
Getting the chance to write my favorite character was another "dream come
true" moment for me. As an added bonus, my friend John Byrne named a
character after me. He created a new Wonder Girl and named her Cassie Sandsmark.
I was her "aunt". Another big highlight for me.
Needing money, I decided to
write an online class to get some steady checks coming. I pitched a class on
comedy writing and it was accepted by Education to Go.
After starting the class,
they put me on hiatus for a few months while they reorganized. It was soon
after this that I lost my voice. Lost it entirely. I did very little during
that silent year, as doctors tried to figure out what had gone wrong and I sank
into a deep depression. My VO career was officially dead, of course. And worse
than that, my writing voice had also died. I had nothing in me other than
Eventually, I figured out
that I was allergic to my blood pressure meds and I slowly regained my voice
over the next few years. Meanwhile, I finished writing the class and then
started selling off my possessions on ebay, to keep myself afloat. I did that
for a year and a half, becoming a powerseller.
Through a friend, I was given
the opportunity to write some nonfiction (good-bye ebay!). "10 Spiritual
Lessons You Can Learn From Your Cat" and "10 Spiritual Lessons You
Can Learn From Your Dog" were the result. When I finished them, I began
work on a novel. The novel was my long-term plan. That's what I wanted to do
with my life. I wanted to write fiction and earn enough to be comfortable
instead of poverty-stricken. I landed three more nonfiction books, with two
different publishers, taught my online class, and started writing songs on the
side. I love to sing jazz, so it's been a lot of fun indulging that side of me.
I now have two novels written
and am in the market for a fiction agent. I also want to write more
non-fiction, so I'll have to start looking for a non-fiction agent, too. The
other books I wrote were unagented as both publishers were in the UK. I'm hoping
my life is finally where it's supposed to be. Storytelling is what I was born
to do. I know that down to my marrow.
Obviously, I strayed off the
path a few times. I had some wonderful opportunities to do some things many
people dream about, like being in a cartoon, writing a TV show, and writing for
comics. But I've always known that I would have to come back to writing novels.
Living a creative life is
never easy. There's often no security, times of severe poverty, and a path
lined with rejections. But for me, it was the only choice. I had to be true to
myself. Right now, as I look back, I can see the path that led me to this day.
And with a final glance behind me, I look again to the future and the new
adventures it will bring me.