I grew up in a rural hamlet of Ohio called Kinsman, which is also where the famous Monkey Trials lawyer Clarence Darrow grew up, and is also known for being the town where science fiction and fantasy writers Leigh Brackett and Edmund Hamilton made their home. As a young adult who had been writing stories and plays since childhood, I held onto the idea of these three people as a form of proof that I might be able to leave Hobbiton one day and find myself on a great adventure in the wider world.
My great adventure into the wider world took time, and was only accomplished in small steps at first. I went to university just a little ways down the road from Kinsman, in the decaying post-industrial city of Youngstown, Ohio, where I studied literature and creative writing. After that, I wandered further down the road, living in a Southern California beach town for a while, then in the capital of Michigan as a library assistant, and finally in the suburbs of Tokyo, Japan, where I taught English in elementary and middle schools and finally had the great adventure in the wider world that I’d been wanting for so many years.
I began publishing in 1999 with the short story, “A Mad Tea Party,” in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. Since then my stories have appeared in a variety of venues, including magazines like Realms of Fantasy, Asimov's, Nerve, Strange Horizons, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and in anthologies like The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Interfictions, Trampoline, Teeth, Salon Fantastique, Welcome to Bordertown, and The Beastly Bride. My novelette, "The Language of Moths," was a finalist for the Nebula Award in 2007, and my novelette, “Map of Seventeen,” was also a finalist for the Nebula Award in 2011.
My first novel, One for Sorrow, won the Crawford Award for Best First Fantasy in 2008. My second book, The Love We Share Without Knowing, is a novel-in-stories set in a magical realist modern Japan, and was a finalist for the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the James Tiptree Jr. Award. I'm the co-editor (with Delia Sherman) of the second volume of Interfictions, and I've done Japanese-English translation on Kant: For Eternal Peace, a peace theory book published in Japan for Japanese teens.
My writing is concerned with a variety of relationships: love of all kinds, families and their structures, the working class, international and interracial dynamics, life for GLBTQ people, rural solitude and isolation, urban decay, urban revitalization, identity. And my writing inhabits many modes and forms: the fairy tale, surrealism, fabulism, magical realism, fantasy, speculative fiction, realism, weird tales, and ghost stories.
Currently I live in Youngstown, Ohio, where I teach fiction writing in the Northeast Ohio MFA program at Youngstown State University. Life does seem like a circle sometimes. This hobbit came home.
But is still waiting for the next great adventure...