Although I grew up all over the country—Florida, Georgia, Colorado, Texas and New Hampshire—in a large, poor, artistic Catholic family, my true home was in books. My English professor father was the son of an army colonel and moving quarters was normal for him. My five sisters and brothers and I may have had holes in our shoes, but Mom made sketches and paintings and Dad recited Shakespeare at the breakfast table. I scared and thrilled myself with the volumes in his library. What does an eight year old girl understand of Ernest Hemingway and Carson McCullers? Very little, perhaps, yet I had a feeling that fiction might contain what I needed to know.
At seventeen, I set foot in the Midwest to attend college at Macalester in St. Paul, and settled there, finally allowed to become deeply familiar with a single landscape. I presently live with my family in a river town just south of St. Paul.
The path I’ve taken as a multi-genre writer has been shaped by my need to earn a living and the doors that opened as I went. Through the Goddard College MFA Program for Writers, I tutored with poets Lisel Mueller, Robert Hass and Ellen Bryant Voigt and with fiction writer Raymond Carver. My first play was produced the year I graduated, and I had the privilege of joining the staff of the Cricket Theater in Minneapolis, under the artistic leadership of Luigi Salerni. Commissioned plays, awards and fellowships followed, but at the back of my mind was the desire to return to fiction, taking the path to which my father had aspired. The Rose Variations is my first novel.
The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass with text by Chamberlain and music by Barnett was commissioned by VocalEssence under the direction of Phillip Brunelle and premiered as a joint performance by the VocalEssence chorus and the celebrated Bluegrass ensemble, Monroe Crossing. The World Beloved was published by Boosey & Hawkes and released on CD on the Clarion label in 2007 and is performed widely.
In 2008, she began a collaboration with composer Mary Ellen Childs on a full-length opera, with the working title, Propeller, commissioned by Nautilus Theater and planned for premiere in 2010 with the participation of the new music ensemble, Zeitgeist.
Powers, her book of poems, was published by New Rivers Press.
She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller, Bush, McKnight, and Jerome Foundations and has been artist in residence at the MacDowell Colony, the Anderson Center and the Rockefeller Foundation Center at Bellagio. She has served as guest faculty at Carleton, Macalester and Augsburg colleges, at Hamline University, the University of Minnesota, and at Universytet Marie Curie Sklowdowskiej in Poland.
She lives with her family in Minnesota and is currently at work on her second novel.