The Seriously Unofficial Bio
Because I think maybe it will encourage others, I always want people to know that I am emphatically not one of these writers who always knew she wanted be a writer. I’m one of these writers who always knew she wanted to be an actress. My theatrical future was settled – in my imagination – when I was about six. I acted in my school plays, did some community theater too, studied voice for years, and everything was going pretty well right up until I got to college and was so intimidated by the theater kids there that I never took a single class. That’s right. Not one. I chickened out.
This is something of a theme in the first 40 or so years of my life.
About a year after abandoning my lifelong dream, because of social anxiety, I turned my creative energies to writing, and I decided during college I was heading that way. A new dream. But then I chickened out again and stopped writing regularly for nearly twenty-years. (If you’re wondering about all this quitting and lacking for follow through, check out my ADD & Me page. It explains a lot.)
During my twenty year hiatus from pursuing a profession, I married, had two children, divorced, remarried and had my third child. My oldest, a daughter, is now an illustrator and artist of all kinds. My son, my middle child, is a law student who managed, unlike his mother, to spend a lot of college performing as a singer, mostly. My third, another daughter, is an irresistible force of nature who has special needs; learning and social disabilities. In many ways she often seems like a kind of extreme version of me when I was a kid. The things I struggled with, she has to struggle with more. But she’s a fighter and she’s on her way to earning a college degree. I am completely besotted with all three of them and with my husband of twenty years, and with my dog. And the order of that list changes depending on all kinds of daily factors.
While I was a stay-at-home mom, I was happy in many ways, channeling my creativity into Martha Stewart-worthy Halloween costumes and birthday cakes. I painted pottery at one of those paint your own pottery shops and actually ended up selling some pieces in (modest) galleries. But I also had long periods of grieving the ship I was sure had sailed: S.S. My Brilliant Career. For some years I continued to kick myself about quitting acting all the way back in college, but increasingly, as that possibility became ever more remote, I slipped into bouts of serious self-hated because I couldn’t get it together to write. I made attempts, but I never stuck to it, and I grew more and more bitter as the years slipped by.
Until 2001. In 2001, I started writing and writing and writing and writing and writing and you get the idea. . . I have never stopped since. There are a lot of reasons for that shift at that time, and there are books coming in the future that will explain many, but for now I’ll just say that I am grateful every day for having found whatever it was I lacked, and made a go of it.
I write fiction, a fact I still find odd, because I don’t think of myself as someone who would be likely spend every workday with people she has made up. But I also write essays about writing, and memoir. I am endlessly fascinated by this question: Why do people do what they do? It’s that interest that fuels most of my work. Even my work about the craft of writing is based on trying to understand what is actually happening when the imagination of one person (the author) becomes the imaginings of another person. It’s so beautiful. And so mysterious. And yet I am continually trying to understand the psychology of it all.
When I’m not writing now, I am generally either reading, teaching, or obsessing over interior design, which is my guilty pleasure. I am forever trying to convince my friends to let me knock their kitchens down and build them up again, but so far, no dice. I also watch more TV than I will ever admit, a higher percentage of it pure unadulterated garbage than even I can believe. I used to be a devoted cook, but I think my writing energies ate my cooking urge. After a day of being creative at the keyboard, I’m usually ready for take-out, as opposed to beginning another project – especially one that involves going to the grocery store.
Because I have ADD, my work habits are scattershot and peculiar. I often have the TV on when I write – or at the very least I will have an endless loop of a single song going. Elvis Costello. Joni Mitchell. David Bowie. The Counting Crows. Queen. Squeeze. Adele. They have all accompanied me through my projects. I wrote the single saddest story I’ve ever written during a week of only listening to “Black Hole Sun” over and over and over again. . . though I don’t think the song informed the mood of the story. I think my mood caused me to choose the song.
And speaking of moods, I am a lot happier than I used to be, back when my own dreams and ambitions frightened me. I think many women are happier when they reach their fifties, assuming good health and all. It’s nice to be old enough to care less about the dumb stuff and more about what matters.
So that’s me. Typically, even this bio is disorganized and a bit messy. The official one, all business, is below.
Thanks for stopping by!
The Seriously Official Bio
Robin Black is the author of three books, the story collection, If I loved you, I would tell you this, which was a finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Story Prize, and named a Best Book of 2010 by numerous publications; the novel, Life Drawing, longlisted for the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the Impac Dublin Literature Prize, and the Folio Prize; and, most recently, Crash Course: Essays From Where Writing And Life Collide. The mother of three grown children, Robin lives in Philadelphia with her husband and teaches in the Rutgers-Camden MFA Program and the Ashland University Low Residency MFA Program.