extended party mix: Heather spent the first portion of her childhood between Chicago,
a van (beaded curtains and all) and Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,
due to her father's draft dodger status. She learned to read at
twoish, and write shortly thereafter, likely out of sheer boredom.
Her mother (a young Irish-American Catholic finishing nursing
school, who would later become an infectious disease expert) worked, while her father
(an Italian-American atheist activist well practiced in hippie
subculture, who would essentially continue his life trying not
to become too jaded over the world not having been changed by
his efforts) barely kept a loose rein on her at home.
The motley crew moved back to the north side of Chicago several
years later, her parents split, and Heather spent many years as
the latchkey queen of her own kingdom, skipping from misadventure
to misadventure, writing stories and singing songs, falling in
love with The Rolling Stones and George Harrison,
and loved school to death, though her report cards frequently
said -- year after year -- "Incredibly hard worker, very intelligent,
very creative. Talks too much."
It having been made poignantly clear that dance classes were no
place for an overly social and coordination-compromised lass,
Heather began taking music classes at a very early age, where
she found (one of) her true calling(s). Her teachers in school
quickly learned how not to call on her when an answer could be
delivered musically -- the states and capitals often turned into
a rather noisy and melodic affair when they forgot to be so cautious
-- and gave up trying to teach their classes when it became clear
Heather was going to run the show no matter what they did. Her
family time was split between her mother's apartment with numerous
wild and crazy nurses and her father's pad, with numerous wild
and crazy surrogate big sisters in the guise of girlfriends. It
was a bit unusual, but those nonstop girl-party years suited Heather very well, and house her best memories of childhood.
Her junior high years were a conglomeration of academic achievement,
boyfriends and girlfriends, dietary experiments, cigarette-smoking,
musical enlightenment, mad crushes, general delinquency, and adventure,
all of which usually began each day with early morning yoga sessions
with her social studies teacher. That's then nice stuff. They were also full of trauma and abuse, which she writes enough about that it's nice to focus on the nice stuff for a change.
Following a brief runaway foray in Manhattan, high school held
trials and tribulations, more traumas and tragedies, and a whole lot of changes, but picked up when she
brushed off her knees and began at a fledgling performing arts
school, majoring in music and creative writing, and working a
bizarre variety of odd jobs to pay her tuition. There she studied
opera and jazz vocals, classical piano, the history of folk music,
composition, and American and English literature. There she informally
studied bisexuality and human anatomy, age-disparate relationships,
mosh pits and underage clubbing, the recreational use of certain
chemical compounds, independent living when one is not legally
independent, and various and sundry other subjects which were
not on the official curriculum. She also began submitting her
poetry to the public, winning a few awards and scoring a few public
Heather took a year off between high school and college to work
for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze, sing on streetcorners, play with
more chemical compounds, experiment with more forms of sexuality
and relationships, raid thrift stores and dumpster dive, and figure
out what the heck she was doing while saving up money for college.
A year later, she entered a Socratic school in northern Illinois.
There, she discovered Blake and found that erotic literature and
sexuality could parade as an actual major, became the Earth Mama
and resident folksinger and tarot reader of her tiny campus, went
through the small pool of sexual partners available in short order, fell deeply in love,
taught developmentally disabled teens and adults on the side,
studied her bum off, won lots of awards that really meant nothing
in the long-run, and found out that a campus of less than 40-people
in the middle of nowhere awfully fast, so moved back to Chicago
and commuted to school.
At the tail end of college and beyond, Heather took up work at
a health food store while also working for an inner city organic
sprout farm (yes, for real), and soon set into teaching. After
a year of teaching in a suburban classroom that was not at all a good fit, she created her own
alternative, vegetarian Kindergarten and pre-kindergarten in the
city, which she ran by the skin of her teeth for several years
before entering into Montessori education training. During this
time, she lived with a children's book illustrator 16
years her senior, and began writing again, after several years
in hiatus, finding her work kept veering towards the sexual.
After she sabotaged that relationship, ran through a
few destructive (but sometimes interesting) others, tried to teach
on a stipend that'd barely manage to feed a dog while moonlighting
with the sprouts on weekends, got screwed over royally and ended
up penniless in a basement and discovered that one cannot write
all night and then work two jobs during the day, she made up her
mind to shift to writing and sexuality work full-time, as well
as devoting herself full-time to her two (then) fledgling sites,
Scarlet Letters and Scarleteen. That decision may have been influenced by sleep deprivation, but it's one of the best ones she ever made. Viva no siesta!
The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, she's: written a book, published in a bunch of books, magazines and websites, and has talked with more teenagers than anyone she's ever met, lived in Minneapolis and Seattle, had a host of marvelous lovers and friends, some of whom have become part of her patchworked family, had her heart broken and lifted up again in the kind of cycle one does when one is fully participating in life, worked in abortion care and counseling, met an incredible number of inspiring and amazing colleagues and compatriots, traveled a good deal predicting sex education and talk about sex education to all kinds of people, helped win an important ACLU case, ridden the carousel of agony and ecstasy that is activism-as-your-living, and done a whole bunch of other stuff that even she can't keep track of most of the time.
She recently moved to a small, rural island near Seattle that's full of other oddball characters with the pug, the old cat, her piano, too many books and the person she fell so madly in love with in college. She's happy as a freaking clam most of the time and
does what she can to bring her strange self, rather unusual upbringing,
and fairly unorthodox views and priorities to the world in small
enough doses that no one yet seems to have developed hives.
Over the years, Heather hasn't changed much. She is still the
latchkey queen of her own kingdom, reads and writes incessantly,
gets mad crushes, smokes too many cigarettes, plays resident Earth
Mama, runs from the anal-retentive throng, often starts her day
with yoga, hula-hooping or fire-building, lives for a good dumpster dive, scraps out
a living doing that which is most important to her though often
pays little to nothing, and is an incredibly hard worker, who
is one creative little smartypants. She also still, as you have likely figured out by now, talks too much.