Get to Know Gretl

Goucher College, MFA in Creative Nonfiction
Sarah Lawrence College, MFA in Poetry
Western Illinois University, MFA in Theater/Acting
Truman University, BA in Language and Literature

The Atlanta Review, BigCity Lit, The Daily Beast,
The Good Men Project, The Greensboro Review, Head Butler, Heliotrope, Lumina, Mangrove, The Nervous Breakdown,
New Millennium Writings, Pitbull Magazine, Rattapallax,
The Same, She Writes

In the Red, Helicon Nine Editions, 2010
Submerged: Tales from the Basin, StepSister Press, 2008
Chance of a Ghost, Helicon Nine Editions, 2005

I was born and raised in Hannibal, Missouri, blocks from Mark Twain’s boyhood home and the Mississippi River. “Did you grow up in a cave?” people often ask. “No,” I reply, “but as a teen I was forced to dress like Becky Thatcher and traipse around the tourist district quoting The Adventures of Tom Sawyerto clusters of camera-wielding German and Japanese sightseers.”Whenever the Twainland Trolley swung by our block on its tour of historic sites, my dad would say, “One day they’ll announce: ‘There’s Gretl Claggett’s girlhood home’.” It’s no wonder, then, that I followed in Twain’s footsteps—dropping out of high school at age seventeen and fleeing the drowsy river town: hungry to see the world and make my mark. Yet unlike young Twain who headed west, I ventured east and landed in the Big Apple where I’ve lived for more than two decades.Truth be told, through the years I’ve harbored a love/hate relationship with my hometown’s hero. But as the poet Ezra Pound professed in his “pact” with Walt Whitman: “I have detested you long enough. I come to you as a grown child who has had a pig-headed father; I am old enough now to make friends.”

Twain was a keen observer of human nature and a master at radically reinventing himself. His work and our beloved Mississippi have deeply influenced my writing. So even though I’ve roamed far from home, I take comfort residing in the West Village, several ironic blocks from where Twain spent a few of his final years.

We write frankly and fearlessly but then we “modify” before we print.

Life on the Mississippi

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