I was born in Miami, Florida, where I grew up. I had a happy childhood and I don’t think I’m blocking anything out.
(Watch the ashes!)
I have one brother named Tony, who is now called Anthony. We had a dog, Chaucer, who died when I was 10 and another dog, Hannibal, who died on the morning of his Bark Mitzvah. My mom thought it was a cute idea to celebrate his 13th birthday and to call it a Bark Mitzvah, and it was a cute idea until Hannibal couldn’t drag his butt to his breakfast bowl and then was dragged away in a black bag before a hundred people showed up with bones and squishy balls.
In elementary school I was a safety patrol. I played little league softball and one season I got 16 homeruns in 20 games. My mom tells me that when someone else made an error, I’d throw down my glove.
(Back row: Andrea, Tony, Karyn, Amy, Eric, and Stacey. Front row: Shellie and Gregg.)
In high school I thought I was the luckiest person in the world because I had the best friends in the world: Shellie, Karyn, Beth, Stephanie and Lauren. I see that I skipped junior high. Like most people, junior high was sweaty and pimply and not the best time, but not terrible either. Shellie pretended to be everyone’s psychiatrist and Karyn decided she was too cool to be my friend for a while, but that was about the worst of it.
I realize I haven’t complained about my mother. While she wasn’t Mrs. Krinzman, who made ham and Miracle Whip sandwiches and Rice Crispy Treats for Melissa and was the den mother for our Brownie troup, my mom, who made me buy my lunch, was pretty great.She woke up at 6:30 every morning and rode her bike with me while I jogged before school. I would never do that for my kid.
I was on the cross-country team at Palmetto High and I became known as the Pillsbury Dough Girl. I wasn’t fat, exactly, but I did have big cheeks. When the Miami Herald printed that Pillsbury rolled to title, I was devastated. My grandma Ruth said, “They called you Pillsbury not because you’re fat, but because you’re white.”
(Pillsbury Dough Girl)
I told Karyn a few years ago that high school was the best years of my life. Karyn said, “That’s sad.” I hadn’t had a baby yet, so I see now what she meant.
I went to Penn in 1986 when Reagan was president. Penn was so conservative that I joined the Progressive Student Alliance and became a radical feminist. Beth likes to tell me that I used to be funny. I think she means, like before I got my panties all in a bunch when someone called me girl. That’s what I learned at Penn: to get my panties all in a bunch if someone called me a girl. I was 18. I was a woman.
After college I biked across the country on The Reproductive Freedom Ride. My dad said something like, “The ride was just one big foreplay.”I thought that was kind of gross when he said it, but every once in a while my dad says something really right on. While I was biking across the country, I fell in love for the first time, with a woman.
My dad’s one cool customer. He believes in napping and drinking wine, by the bottle. I don’t like wine, but I like my dad.
I went to grad school at GW in public policy because I wanted to change the world. I thought that if I knew better how the world worked, I’d be better equipped to change it. This was an important juncture because while I still want to change the world, I realized in grad school that I’d rather write stories. I took a class taught by Jill Kasle, where every week we had to write a paper and recite a two-minute essay. If we stuttered or lifted an arm, Jill Kasle would yell, “No ums, hands at your sides…” For the first few weeks of school, Jill Kasle passed me in the halls and said, “Go to law school, Andrea.” I think she saw a little bit of herself in me and she was a lawyer. I was flattered, but thought: “I can’t be made to read about torts.” After I turned in an assignment, which was a story mimicking the style of Sylvia Plath, Jill Kasle passed me in the hall and said, “Be a novelist, Andrea.”I was flattered again. I graduated and spent the next nine months alone in my room writing a novel.
After grad school and before I decided to really take writing seriously, I got fired from PIRG. The truth is, I sucked at that job. Sucked at all the jobs that fired my ass. I’ve been fired five times. The only job I didn’t get fired from was a family owned business. My family. So I decided to create my own organization. I moved to LA and started Bike Out to help gay and lesbian youth realize their full potential.
I love biking. Biking is actually part of my writing process. Joyce Maynard, one of my favorite writers and teachers, says that it helps to do something physical, like sewing or cooking or chopping wood, to get your mind to work while you’re not paying attention. I bike over the bridge on Key Biscayne almost every day. Some one might say I’m having fun, but I’m actually working.
Then before I hit 35, I had a baby. I hated being pregnant and that is the subject of my first book, My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy (Cleis Press, 2008).
I love telling stories out loud and for nine years, I produced and hosted Lip Service–true stories out loud. Lip Service is the best storytelling event in South Florida. In the world. It’s raw, funny, sad, everything. I don’t run the show anymore, but it’s still happening under the leadership of the Miami Book Fair and you can be a part of it. Anyone can submit a story, (1,200 words or less). Go to www.lipservicestories.com for show dates and deadlines and to hear past stories.
Now, I’m writing full time and being a mom. I finished with my second book, currently titled, Attention Whore. It’s about a woman who needs a lot of attention. Right now I’m trying to sell it to a publishing house so I can travel all over the world to read it in front of live audiences. I know book tours are not rock star tours, but still, I wanna go.
I’m also teaching memoir writing and hosting the podcast Writing Class Radio. If you want great, true personal stories and a little about how to write your own stories, this podcast is for you.
I live with my wife, Victoria, and our daughter, Tashi, son, Sebastian, and dog, Beast, in Miami, Florida. I’ve come home.
That’s some of my story. Thanks for reading.