Pull your stomach in,” instructed Ms. Helen, my first teacher.  “Derrière tucked under.  Turn out from the hips.  Lead with the heel of your foot.”  Holding my stomach in was the hardest part.  

So began my relationship to the art of dance.

As a dancer sidelined by rheumatoid arthritis, I often feel it is the RA, the uncontrollable disease that makes my story interesting, and that makes me feel cheap. It’s a tough truth to consider: that I’m just not that interesting without the RA. Sure, I was never a famous dancer.

And that relationship was interrupted. But the home of my ancestors gave it back to me.

West Virginia was my family’s home, but most members have moved away or passed on. I came back to the state of my ancestors and fell into teaching ballet as I wrote about it. For whatever reason, this trajectory feels very West Virginian.

What happens when rheumatoid arthritis cuts short a promising career of a ballet dancer?  Fierce and Delicate (163 pages/ 45,590 words), a memoir in essays, spans over 30 years time and reveals the trajectory of a life shaped by ballet, chronic disease, writing, and teaching. 

August 20th, 2015: This manuscript was shortlisted for the Mary Roberts Rinehart nonfiction contest at Stillhouse Press.


Selections from the manuscript have been published or are forthcoming as standalone creative nonfiction in literary journals such as Blue Lyra Review, Switchback, Prime Number, Perigee: A Journal of the Arts, Stymie, Crosstimbers, Poets & Writers, Midwestern Gothic, The Gettysburg Review, and elsewhere. “Five Positions,” one of the pieces in the collection, was awarded a Special Mention from the Pushcart Prizes. 

Interested in news about Fierce and Delicate? Use the contact form on this website to be added to the list for updates.

Want to sample selections from the book?

"When I Was A Mouse" at Prime Number Magazine

"Out of the Blue" at Cleaver Magazine