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
|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.