I was born on Staten Island, New York, to very young parents who dreamed of raising five children on a farm. Soon I had four younger siblings, and we moved out of the city to a crumbling stone house down a long dirt road, where we raised sheep and chickens and became ever more "eccentric"- bankrupt that is, and peculiar. I began writing fiction when I was very young, trying to make some sense of it all.
My first stories were published in The Atlantic while I was at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, and when I graduated from Iowa I was offered a year's fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Like thousands of people before and after me, I fell in love with this little town way out at sea, and I've lived here for 25 years now, with my husband Roger Skillings and our daughter Marisa.
The House on Oyster Creek and The Harbormaster's Daughter are my fourth and fifth books. I've finally lived on the Outer Cape long enough to have a deep sense of this place and feel comfortable writing about it. The older I get, the better I understand why writers like Austen and Hardy and Faulkner mapped out and populated their own imaginary territories, drawing on the places they knew intimately to shed light on universal truths. A small town is a lot like a novel-you see stories play out in real time, you know people's graces and weaknesses, and just when they have entirely exasperated you, they turn around and do something so admirable and surprising, that…you can't help writing a book.
My earlier books are The Rose Thieves, Darling?, and The Bride of Catastrophe, all available in paperback. My stories have been published in The Atlantic, Grand Street, Agni Review, Yankee, and many other magazines, and anthologized in The O'Henry Awards, Best American Nonrequired Reading, the Grand Street Reader and others. Essays have appeared in The New York Times among others, and you can read my blog on Patch.com. "And Take Skillings with You."