I was born and raised in Pennsylvania where I graduated from Shippensburg State College (now Shippensburg University). When I was a senior in college, I won an Atlantic Monthly fiction competition and have been writing ever since. My first job after graduation was with the Appalachian Poverty Program, where I was expected to counsel and tutor underprivileged children on a one-to-one basis. During my first day on the job, I discovered that the previous occupier of my position had been beaten up by the very kids he had been trying to help and had landed in the hospital for several weeks. The following year was filled with challenge but also tension, and I was more highly motivated than ever to build a career as a writer. I wrote nights and weekends, which I continued to do after leaving the poverty program and going to work as an English teacher in a suburban school district outside Harrisburg. After a year and a half in that position, my wife, Gerda, made me an offer I couldn't refuse: "I'll support you for five years," she said, "and if you can't make it as a writer in that time, you'll never make it." By the end of those five years, Gerda had quit her job to run the business end of my writing career. Gerda and I, along with our dog, Trixie, live in southern California.
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