Biography

I distinctly remember the first time my first grade teacher handed out pieces of new, lined paper to the class.  “Today is Monday” she wrote on the board.  I looked down at my sheet of paper and felt intensely happy.  Smoothing it’s coolness with my palm I inhaled its scent; a combination of cedar and possibility.  When I looked up and around I realized immediately that not everyone was so affected; Jody Engel sat perfectly straight as befitted the teacher’s pet, eyes front, hands on desk.  Mark Graham was engaged in his usual pastime, picking his nose and Mike Jaffe was trying to poke Andrea Nardo in the back.  I could see his paper getting crinkled as he lunged forward to poke her with his pencil and this made me cringe.  Because for me, everything had just changed.  There was life before that first sheet of paper and life after; before, I was just another little girl in the first grade at CherryLaneSchool.  After, I was a writer.  Maybe it was the glue.

Because I had two brothers who were so much older than I was that I grew up as an only child, and because my mother believed in frequent visits to the children’s section of the Arrandale library in Great Neck, New York, I became a voracious reader at an early age, guarding and savoring the 6 or 7 books I was allowed to check out each time.  At the same time I amassed an obnoxious amount of and an obsessive attachment to Golden Books, specifically The Poky Little Puppy.  The severity of this obsession was finally uncovered by an ungodly tantrum and several stampings of my foot and a pitiful cry of “N-O-No!” when my mother insisted that I load them into my red wagon and hand them down to the little girl next door.  I was fourteen at the time.

Reading frenzies defined an otherwise unremarkable childhood characterized by a love of all sports, an identity as a tomboy, and a pervasive sense of ‘late blooming’.  Stories with a lesson (Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, Ramona) were early favorites, followed by a fascination with biographies (Clara Barton, Girl Nurse, and Francis Marion, Swamp Fox) and finally a taste for fantasy (A Wrinkle In Time, Phantom Tollbooth), disaster (Follow My Leader, Death Be Not Proud), and Mythology (Medusa, Pegasus, The Odyssey).  Other childhood favorites were From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Black Like Me, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher In the Rye, This Perfect World and stolen copies of Goodbye Columbus and Valley of the Dolls.

For a short time I abandoned reading because I was under the impression that I could sing.  I would torture anyone within earshot with great, booming, impressions of Barbra Streisand or Ethel Merman and my own stylings of The Fifth Dimension’s Up, Up and Away plus an especially grating rendition of Band of Gold which prompted my cousins to run screaming from the house shouting, “Mom!  She’s singing again!”

After graduating from high school one year early, (the press release was that I was bored and ready for the next step while the reality was that I didn’t make the Varsity Cheerleading Squad and was too mortified to show up for senior year) I first attended The American University and then The University of Michigan, from where I graduated with a BA in English and a lifetime love of the Midwest.  A series of jobs in advertising, travel, and employment followed, none of which came close to bringing me the joy that staying home to raise my two children did.  And believe me, I thank God every day for the financial freedom to have done this and the payoff is that my children are now perfect in every way.  Seriously, they are.  No, no really.

Later, I returned to school to get my Masters in Social Work both to find more meaning in my life and to also model productivity and passion to my children, who, although perfect in every way, would occasionally ask if one day I was going to get a real job.  Usually this occurred as I was reminding them not to talk to strangers or help anyone look for a lost puppy.  So what if they were in high school?  You can never be too careful.  Also, I had just attended my 20th high school reunion, where I regretted that I hadn’t had the foresight to make up business cards that read Debra Borden, Bank President or Debra Borden, NASA Astronaut.

When I finally did become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, instead of being impressed and suitably inspired, my perfect children groaned that I wouldn’t stop “therapizing” everyone.  I first worked with developmentally disabled adults and then segued into school social work for the hours.  Although I loved working with children and families of all ages, I found myself looking forward more to writing the assessments than performing them, and after an extremely critical failure with a group of 12 year old ADHD boys (let’s just say there was fire involved and it wasn’t accompanied by linked arms and a spirit of cooperation around a campfire) I decided everyone would be better served, and safer, if I put my writing skills to work.

Although blessed to be published, twice, being an author doesn’t necessarily create the glamorous or lucrative life one might expect.  Like most people, I’ve had my share of detours, from emotional to medical, financial to parental.  I did go back to being a clinician and currently have a ‘real’ job, as the community liaison for a wonderful psychiatric and substance abuse treatment center.  But always, it’s the writing that nurtures, that sings, that gets me in ‘the zone’.  I’ve often said, writing is not a choice; it’s simply what I must do.  It defines me.  I am never quite as alive as when I am putting myself on the page.  Luckily I continue to write for national and local magazines as well as work on full length projects.  Most days I also get to marry my two professional ‘hats’, clinician and writer, to my passionate ones; cooking, golfing, and laughing with my children.  For most of my adult life I’ve raised ‘Labs’ of all colors and recently lost my 17 year-old best friend Bailey Dog Borden.  I shamelessly eulogized her on Facebook for way too long.  Sigh.  The dog people will understand.

Other hobbies include reading and being in awe (translation: jealous) of most other authors, listening to Pandora (doesn’t music make everything better?), spinning (at the gym, not uncontrollably by myself in the house), skiing, wine, and traveling.  Wait, let me reverse the order:  Wine, skiing, traveling.  Did I mention wine?  That’s better.

My taste in books is eclectic: In no particular order: Jenna Blum, Jodi Picoult, Elizabeth Berg, T.C. Boyle, Augusten Burroughs, Edward Albee, Dave Sedaris, Amy Tan, Anita Shreve, Ben Cheever, Dorothy Parker and many newer novelists such as Alicia Erian.  My favorite books include Life of Pi and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  I am so grateful to be in the writing community; I have never felt such generosity; it is a personal mandate to pay that forward.  As all of my readers know, ‘I always write back’.  Probably way more extensively than anyone would want!

Finally, no doubt my friends would describe me as Resilient and Funny.  While I think it’s great to be Resilient, if I had it do over I would have structured my life so that I wouldn’t have had to bounce back so much.  As for Funny, I confess, I’m a laugh whore.  But a good friend once told me that Funny is a risk worth taking, even if you occasionally misstep.

Note to self:  Going forward, less missteps if possible.  More forgiveness when I do.