Autobiographical Note for Sarah Micklem
I was born in Virginia, the second of three children. My parents moved frequently before settling in Rochester, New York. My father was a schoolteacher and a naturalist; my mother worked on issues of peace, justice, and support for families. Both my parents were and still are dedicated activists. I have early memories of marching in “Ban the Bomb” protests.
As a ninth-grader, I helped found a short-lived private school without mandatory classes. This gave me the free time to read three science fiction books a day for an entire winter, and provided a graceful way to drop out of high school. After working in a restaurant and printing plant and trying to write a science fiction novel of my own, I concluded I’d better go to college. I got a General Equivalency Diploma and applied for Princeton University, hoping to work with Professor Gerard K. O’Neill, who had proposed the idea of orbiting space colonies. Princeton accepted me, but my dream of becoming a scientist ran headlong into the brick wall of calculus.
I took a year off during college to marry a friend from high school, the poet Cornelius Eady. (Yes, he was already a poet, and we were friends in high school, not sweethearts). After my graduation, we moved to New York City, where I resettled refugees for a non-profit agency. When my husband took a teaching position in Virginia, I found a job there as a graphic designer, and was relieved to have discovered an enjoyable way to make a living. After returning to New York, I spent 14 years at Time Warner designing children’s magazines.
In 1996, working with Cornelius and Toi Derricotte, I helped start Cave Canem, a thriving non-profit organization for African American poets that sponsors workshops, readings, and a book prize. I volunteered as staff for several years until we raised enough money to hire a director.
I began thinking about the character Firethorn as a hobby on long car trips to Rochester, and eventually I started to do research and make notes on Firethorn’s world. I wrote during vacations. I kept the book a secret from everyone but Cornelius so I wouldn’t be asked, “How’s your novel going?” I gave up after a couple of years and about 100 pages, but I had the nagging feeling of leaving something unfinished. Several years later, beginning in 1998, I took classes from writer Abigail Thomas. With the encouragement of Abby and her class, I started writing again and stayed with it this time. Firethorn is my first publication.
Since then I’ve been hard at work on the sequel, Wildfire, while teaching courses in writing fiction at Notre Dame University and freelancing as a graphic designer. Wildfire will be out in June of 2009 from Scribner.
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