Mine is not the story of a shy, bookish child who always knew she wanted to be a writer. I was a precocious extrovert with a flair for fashion who preferred the visual and performing arts to reading and writing. I wanted to be a hairdresser or actress when I grew up.
There was room for only one star in the family, though, and that was my mom, a nightclub singer who belted out cover tunes to businessmen in hotel lounges across the country. When we were on the road I’d sit quietly at an empty table, drawing my little heart out, as the band rehearsed. Back home in Chicago, I’d sit on wooden courtroom benches and sketch as my dad, a personal injury lawyer, plead cases. I drew imaginary families with names, ages, and detailed relationships, all with hands behind their backs, because I didn’t know how to draw fingers.
After my parents’ divorce, I lead a free-range childhood, and often visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, which was right across the street from our apartment. The zoo is the setting for Kenny the Koala, a book that I wrote and illustrated at age 13 as part of an elective in children’s literature. My young adult novels, The Seventeen Club and Getting to Vegas, came a few decades later.
In the years between Kenny and Vegas, I graduated from an all-girls boarding school in Virginia, earned a B.S. from Northwestern University and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern California. I worked as an NBC Page, had a brief career with NBC News, sold a movie script to MGM, free-lanced as a story analyst in Hollywood, and was a staff writer on two TV shows (not exactly in that order).
Eventually, I got down to the business of creating my own flesh and blood family, which includes three other humans and two canines. We all live together in a cozy house near the beach, where I whip up delicious meals and short stories, narrative non-fiction, and mostly abstract paintings, because I still don’t know how to draw fingers.
*Zara Rose Gray is a nom de plume, and the best attempt at reconciling my split personality. My other work can be found at LaurieZerwer.com