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Lorri Hewett

About the Author

Lorri was born in Fairfax, Virginia, but spent most of her childhood in Littleton, Colorado. Her childhood was for the most part idyllic and uneventful; her father was a system analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and her mother stayed home with Lorri and her younger brother Derek.Lorri was a highly imaginative kid, spending hours in the imaginary worlds she created from the many books she read. One of her favorite things to do was to write herself into her favorite stories, altering the stories so that instead of Laura Ingalls, Charles-Wallace Murray, Luke Skywalker, or Indiana Jones, she was the principle heroine.All through her early years at school she was the ‘difficult’ child, the one who ‘was smart but didn’t apply herself,’ was ‘continually challenging authority,’ and ‘constantly daydreaming.’ Her first serious writing attempt occurred at age nine, when she wrote a novel inspired by the Little House on the Prairie series. The novel, titled ‘Carlton’s Life,’ consisted of about 140 pencilled pages detailing the adventures of 6 year old Wendy Carlton, who was not only a pioneer (braving the ravages of the Florida winters in 1843 — at that point Lorri didn’t know much about geography), but also a religious zealot (as in Joan of Arc), an accomplished actress, and she had the Force as well. At this time Lorri became seriously involved in ballet training, which made a nice compliment to her writing because in ballet she was able to develop the discipline that would allow her to sustain long writing projects.The first major event in her life occurred when she was eleven and her Aunt Ginger died of cancer. Her parents then took in her eight year old cousin Darnel, and the family had to adjust to having a new member. The adjustment was made even more difficult because Darnel’s biological father, learning that Darnel was to be the recipient of his mother’s life insurance policy, sued the court for custody of Darnel. The next two years were very difficult emotionally and financially for the family, as social workers and lawyers became a regular intrusion on family life. Whereas writing had been chiefly an amusement before, writing stories became therapeutic and a source of escapism. Her characters began to resemble human beings instead of fantastical adventurers.Although she had in junior high become a part of the ‘bad crowd,’ her attraction to this crowd was their anger and their rebelliousness. They provided her with a window of observation into the world of teenage turmoil and heartache that she had read about in S.E. Hinton books and that she was not, by her relative comfort and her stable family life, a part of. In these years she relished playing the role of counsellor to her beleaguered friends, helping them through parental crises, substance abuse problems, eating disorders, and sexual victimization. All of these experiences gave her a new impetus for writing. She now became committed to the idea of recording the problems that she saw around her with people her age in a realistic and uncondescending way. Writing was still, however, an extremely private thing for Lorri. Aside from her best friend from childhood Lyda Acker, no one, not even her parents, knew to the extent to which writing was an important part of her life.Her most productive writing period was in her high school years, in which she wrote nine novels. Her high school years were her most difficult because that was when she began to feel alienated. Being ‘different,’ i.e., being the only black student in her classes, living in a homogenous middle-class WASPY neighborhood had never before been problematic for her because she had always been in many ways a leader, someone other kids could look up to. Once she reached high school, being a leader was no longer enough for her. She knew that there was something more to her identity than she was seeing in her daily life. She had no real access to black organizations, had no black friends. Her first thought to deal with this new dilemma for her was to throw herself even more into activities. At this time ballet had become an important part of her life. She was spending six days a week at the dance studio in serious professional training. She began to feel the first subtleties of racial discrimination, which she had not consciously experienced at all prior to age 14 in her ballet company. Ballet, as an art form, has never been comfortable explored in any context outside of European classics, and this is especially true of ballet training, which is extremely traditional. As she watched herself being passed over for major roles, Lorri began to wonder why it seemed to difficult to have a black Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella, and in this way she began to see how tradition was often incompatible with social realities.Lorri actively sought to involve herself in the black community by making friends in the Denver area and becoming active in Shorter African Methodist Episcopal church. Out of these experiences grew her inspiration for her first published novel titled Coming of Age. Written when she was a senior in high school, this novel explored the themes of alienation from the points of view of a suburban teenager recently transplanted to the city, a girl of mixed race who feels she isn’t accepted by the black or the white community, and a popular athlete who experiences the shallowness of major university recruiting. Unsure of the book’s marketability, she sent the book to only one publisher, Holloway House, a medium-sized publisher of black experience paperbacks. She was surprised to learn in her freshman year at Emory University that the book had been accepted for publication.Lorri won a merit scholarship to attend Emory University that covered all of her tuition and room and boarding expenses. Because finances were not a big concern for her, she was able to devote her time to many different activities. At Emory, Lorri remained actively involved in the dance community, as well as getting involved in several African American organizations on campus. She had originally thought she would study political science and then go to law school, but she realized in her second year that she had a love of literature and that she wanted to explore that interest further. She became involved in the creative writing program at Emory, winning the undergraduate fiction contest in her freshman year.Coming of Age came out in print at the beginning of her second year ar Emory. Lorri was surprised by the amount of publicity surrounding the book and spent her first semester giving many television, radio, newspaper and magazine interviews. This was a rather unnerving experience, as writing, which had always been such a private part of her life, now became public. But the most enjoyable experiences for her were the visits to several Atlanta high schools, where she talked with students about the process of writing. She was often told by the students, especially by black students, that her book was the first book to get them interested in reading in general. These experiences further emphasized for her the paucity of books focusing on the contemporary experiences of young African-Americans and how it was important to her to keep writing for that audience. Her second novel Soulfire grew out of that impetus. The first draft was written during her second year at Emory and explored the issues of black manhood.Lorri spent the summer between her sophomore and junior year in Europe and the middle East, studying art history and ancient history. She was also able to travel again in the summer of 1993, spending that summer at the university of Oslo’s International Summer School with students from 78 countries. That experience made the most profound impression on her life, as she was able to live in a truly global community.During

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