“To be born is to be wrecked on an island.” J.M. Barrie, who is perhaps (along with Thornton Wilder) the most theatrical of English-speaking playwrights, made this observation, and it has more than a purely metaphorical application to my own life. Altoona, Pennsylvania was a railroad-repair town beginning to shut down its shops in 1949, the year I was born, and it wasn’t until 1987 that it was connected to the rest of the country by a four-lane highway, the last town of its size in America to do so. Nestled in the arms of the Allegheny Mountains, it was very much an island when I was growing up, and islands have defined my life ever since.
My first sojourn at an artists’ colony was on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia, and it was there that I familiarized myself with Mr. Barrie and found my mentor. Robert Louis Stevenson, another writer I admire, spent the last years of his life in Samoa, and in celebration of my fiftieth birthday I made a pilgrimage to his gravesite. Scotland itself is arguably an island (or part of one) and I have never felt more at home than on my visits there. The tiny island of Iona is something of my spirit’s home. Manhattan, of course, is an island, quite the opposite of Ossabaw, and it has for better or worse defined so much of my writing life. So it is in this spirit that I thank you for visiting my own little web-island. In the pages and posts you’ll find here (I can’t help but look upon this as the book of my creative life) I want to tell you a little bit about my work: the stories in it, of it, behind it, and by default a little bit about me.