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I'm going to open up the door and let you into my life a little and hope you let me into yours. 

1. I'm a native Palm Springs. There aren't many of us. 
2. I spent most of my summers in NY. People thought I was spoiled because I went to NY so often, but if their families had have been from Washington or Mississippi, my summers would have been spent there instead. My dad was from the Bronx, Riverdale area, and my mom from Blasdell, NY. It's a small town right outside of Buffalo, NY. They also thought I was spoiled because my family is in the restaurant business, but I will tell you right now we're not rich and I've worked many jobs over the years (some without pay to gain experience, and sometimes as many as four to make ends meet). We're not rich, but we are a family of hard workers. 
3. My Great-Uncle Tony (aka Sonny) managed Martoni's in Hollywood in the late 60's and early 70's. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were also seen in there. My great-uncle even denied the late Sonny Bono entrance into his restaurant because he wasn't dressed properly. It's rumored that Sonny retaliated by writing the song "Laugh at me." It's ironic that I work for the PS film festival sometimes since that was Sonny Bono's baby. 
4. My grandpa was part of NYPD's finest. He was part of the Times Square police force for almost 21 years. I tried bringing up the Mafia and Black Panthers a couple of times, but he changed the subject. I learned to leave it alone. Though I wish I would've pushed harder because those secrets and those times died with him years ago. 
5. My great-uncle opened up Riccio's in Palm Springs after he realized all the celebrities were retreating to PS. His friend, Frank Sinatra, still frequented his new restaurant. In fact, it was Frank's idea that my great-uncle open a restaurant in Palm Springs; Though he needed help so my grandpa moved everyone out to Palm Springs to help out. Nothing like family to help out in our times of need. 
6. In college I was part of Sigma Kappa. I love those girls and will love them for life. They taught me it's OK to be me. I like me. No, scratch that, I love me. 
7. In college I also joined the school newspaper, the Highlander. I was the assistant news editor and also the Features Editor. They entered me into a contest. 
8. That contest opened up so many doors. It was to be part of Teen People's news team member team. Out of thousands of applicants only twenty were chosen. I was one of those twenty. I was the eyes and ears of Teen People for over two years. I was also published in that magazine. 
9. At Teen People, I met a girl from Florida named Scarlett and I helped her start Beautiful Girl magazine. In a year we managed to get it into Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Borders and Books a Million. Not bad for two girls still in college. :) Scarlett now owns a fabulous online boutique, Scarlett Lillian,  and her own photography business with her husband, Steven. 
10. Through that I met Hilary Rowland, an amazing model and business mogul. I started working for her on and off helping her with Urbanette and New Faces. I love learning from her. I still help her out to this day with another company, Project Migration, a fashion accessories company with a charitable initiative. 
11. I started out as a drama major in college, but realized I was way too shy so I switched to bio. That lasted a year. I hate math, but my roommate, Sarah, from college stuck with it and she is a fantastic biology professor who is also getting her PhD at Fordham University now. 
12. I spent the next year searching for what I loved. I realized I loved reading and writing so I majored in literature. I minored in creative writing. I also realized I loved anthropology so I double majored. 
13. I love monkeys and I love studying other cultures. I still use my anthro background to this day in my writing. 
14. I'm a spa baby. I don't think there are too many procedures I haven't tried. 
15. My freshman english teacher, Mr. Pascualini, said I would never make it as a writer and to quit while I was ahead. I took offense to it and showed him. I moved into AP English and Dr. Linn kicked my butt. I will always love her for that. 
16. I'm an extreme sports junkie. No, really, I am. I've been skydiving, Zorbing, paragliding and ziplining. I want to shark cage dive and bungee jump still. I wrote an article for one of Hilary's websites once about this. You can read about it here.
17. I will be forever grateful to my professors in college who constantly push me. Tod, Mary, Susan, Gayle and Stephanie. Thank you!!! I will repay you someday. 
18. I love to travel. I have been to Australia, Costa Rica, England, France, and throughout most of the US and parts of Canada. I have made travelling every four years around the presidential election a tradition of mine. I vote and then take a long vacation...just in case. Haha. 
19. Thanks to my mom living in Blasdell when she was younger, I have been to Niagara Falls many, many times. More times than I'd like to count. I have been on every tour of Niagara Falls imaginable at least twice. It's alright though. I love Niagara on the Lake. Fabulous shopping there. 
20. I have learned great discipline and patience by working for the family business. 
21. GQ once did a photo shoot with Benjamin Bratt right after Ocean's Eleven came out at the restaurant. Also, I love movies. I cry at the thought of one of my books eventually being turned into a movie. I hope to write a successful screenplay someday too. It's part of my bucket list, but that's for another list, and on another day. 
22. Many celebrities have frequented Riccio's including all of the girls from Friends, Brad Pitt, Mariah Carey, Sidney Sheldon, Mr. Sharp (he owns all of the Four Seasons hotels), and some of our former presidents. Oh and lots of music people. I'm almost never star struck thanks to my family. Hell I hung out with Kevin Rahm from Desperate Housewives during the film fest and loved it. They are no different than everyone else, and would like to be treated as such most of the time. 
23. My Uncle Bob used to work for Sony music when he was a little younger than me as a promotions assistant. He became friends with Tommy Shaw from Styx. My uncle made work his life. It's also what killed him so young so I take that lesson to heart. It's okay to work, but you have to find balance as well. 
24. Tommy Shaw used to see me a lot when I was younger and then saw me again when I was 21. He asked my Uncle Bob, "That isn't Heather is it?" My uncle paused, looked at him, and sarcastically said," No, that's not Heather." Then he laughed and said, "Of course it's her." I think I made him feel old. :( He's a nice guy though. 
25. I met Ellen Hopkins at an SCBWI event a couple years ago and was in awe. I also met Robin Benway while in the UC Riverside MFA program. I strive to be just like them. Successful enough to do what they love and write like there is no tomorrow. I wanted to be just like Susan Straight and Gayle Brandeis as soon as I started working with them. Both of them poignant, successful female writers.

Plus, an extra fact thrown in for good measure. I love my job. I work for Entangled Publishing and have for a few years now. You have to do what you love and the rest will fall into place. There will always be doubters, always be people who say you can't follow your dreams. People who say you can't have a personal life and a work life, but it's all about balance. Find that balance and you'll be golden. 

Now I'd love to know more about you. What makes you tick?  Where did you grow up? Dish. On this day before Christmas, I'm asking you to dish away! :) 

 
 
At eighteen, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Most people don’t and those who actually do know are few and far between. I entered UC Riverside as an acting major; Never mind, that I hadn’t taken any acting classes in my life, but had done some modeling in high school. The UC system allowed me to change my major right away and I had always loved science so I decided to become a science major my first year. That didn’t last past my freshman year because I hated math. Still do, but it allowed me to do something amazing. This confusion about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life gave me the freedom to explore as many majors as I wanted.

My sophomore year in university I became a liberal studies major with an emphasis in English and a minor in Creative Writing. I loved to analyze everything so this was perfect. That same year I also fell in love with anthropology so I decided to double major my junior year. Anthropology allowed me to get inside heads of people and cultures. It gave me the courage to think bigger. Something I hadn’t done till college. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life.

I loved writing and anthropology so much that I ended up taking several years to decide which one I wanted to go back and get my masters in. I loved studying cultures. The stories my professors would come back with amazed me. They’d talk about smoking peyote with the locals or smuggling people to freedom. They’d speak about bringing supplies back to countries where people couldn’t get basic medical care, a proper education or even a roof over their heads. They’d talk about women who had to sell themselves to put food on the table. They wanted to be a part of the solution. They’d help these women start their own businesses, even though the businesses were small, it was enough to put food on the table without having to subject themselves to the degradation they had in the past. I wanted to help so much. I even considered sending letters out to work with Dr. Weil (And get my masters at University of Arizona where he was teaching at the time).

I had letters of recommendation for both an anthropology masters and for MFA programs. I almost applied for the anthropology masters, but writing tugged at my heart and soul more. In the end, it won. It was in a Masters program that I really learned to hone my writing and to think about feelings and emotions. I could write analytical papers no problem. Give me a 20 page paper on Egyptian women and their households and I could turn that around quickly. Understand that evidence on Egyptian women was often burned so this took awhile to figure out, and yet I could do this faster than delving into a character’s emotion or mind. It took a master’s program to force that out of me.  I had to imagine myself in their shoes. I found myself getting upset at the murder of a father or sad at the desperation in a character who just wanted to find out who she really was. It opened up a side of me I never knew I had. It’s that reason that I highly recommend going back to get an MFA.

In the process, I also found a happy medium when it comes to helping others. I work pro-bono as the Director of Partnerships for Project Migration, a fashion accessory company with a charitable initiative. Proceeds from the sales go back to help single mothers and their children in Africa. No matter what happens during the day I always write. If I’m angry, I let that emotion come out because sometimes my character’s best emotions come from the pain I’m feeling. Allowing them speak, allows me to heal. Something I couldn’t have done if I didn’t learn how to write everything out.