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Taneesha Freidus Updated
Cynthia Hand grew up in southeast Idaho, just outside the town of Idaho Falls. From as far back as she can remember, she loved books and reading, and wrote her first short story (about a fairy being born in a tulip) when she was around six years old--pretty much as soon as she could write. Her second grade teacher, Mrs. Widdison, told Cynthia that she'd be an author some day, and Cynthia believed her. She kept writing stories all through grade school, most of them wildly fantastical musings on supernatural beings or creatures, none of which ever won the annual short story competition where the writer got to meet Kenneth Thomasma,the author of one of Cynthia's favorite books, Naya Nuki. Cynthia learned early on that if you wanted to win the writing contest, you should write stories about that time your parents got their car stuck in the snow on the side of a mountain just before dark. You should not write about a group of unicorns fighting to take over an island from an alien invasion. Cynthia kept writing about unicorns anyway. In middle school and high school, she and her friends formed a writing group that wrote fan fiction about their favorite novels and movies. Each person in the group invented a new character in the decided-upon world (they wrote about Elfquest, Vampire Hunter D, X-Men, Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar series, Anne McCafferty's Pern series, Star Wars, and SeaQuest (anyone remember SeaQuest?) and wrote exclusively from that character's point of view, sharing their writing as they went, collectively shaping what happened to these characters. Early on Cynthia was appointed the "editor" of their work, meaning that she collected it all, typed it, and edited it. She loved and possibly abused her power with the red pen. In middle school and high school Cynthia also, on top of all the fan-fic writing, took piano lessons, danced tap and ballet, raced on the Kelly Canyon ski team, acted or teched in every school play and several plays for the community theater, sang in the school choir, took AP classes, and somehow managed to find time to eat and sleep enough to stay alive. There was a period during her junior year when she arrived at school at 5:30 a.m. and didn't get home until around 10 p.m., five days a week. She took the words insanely busy to a whole new level. Cynthia went to college at the College of Idaho, where she majored in English (because she still loved to read, dangit) with a pre-law emphasis. She kept writing, as a hobby, she told everybody (especially her dad, who wanted her to have a solid, well-paying job) but focused on classes in constitutional law and international politics. She kept this up until the beginning of her senior year, when one day, neck deep in the law section of the library, she had this thought: I don't want to be a lawyer. I want to be a writer. So she broke the news to her parents and her advisers, who were all dismayed but tried to be understanding (especially her dad), and started to work on applying to M.F.A. programs in creative writing. Cynthia was lucky enough to get on the wait list of Boise State University. At Boise State, Cynthia was determined to become a "serious writer," to the point where she cut up pictures of her favorite literary authors (Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Alice Walker, Jane Smiley, Harper Lee, Tobias Wolff, Andre Dubus, Rick Bass, Joyce Carol Oates and many others) and taped them to the edges of her computer screen, so that she'd be reminded of greatness every time she sat down to write. No pressure or anything. It was in Boise that Cynthia fell head over heels in love with literary fiction, which she wrote exclusively for the next nine years, and with teaching. Just when she thought she was finally figuring out how to be a writer, she got kicked out (okay, not kicked out, she graduated with an M.F.A. in fiction writing). She wanted to keep studying, so she applied for Ph.D.s around the country, settling eventually on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In Nebraska, three hugely important things happened: Cynthia met her future husband, the writer and poet John Struloeff, she published her first short story, which she submitted to try to impress John Struloeff, and she connected with her agent. Fast forward five years. Cynthia and John have married, graduated with their Ph.D.s, and had a son named Will. John landed a fantastic job as the director of the Creative Writing department at Pepperdine University, where Cynthia also had the pleasure of teaching one or two classes a semester. She has settled into "real life," but something is missing: writing. She's just not feeling it. This goes on for a couple years until one fateful night, the night that Unearthly first started stirring in her mind. It's been a wild ride since then. . .