My Home of Heart: Writing Regionally

Hello writers and readers! After another amazing summer in the Children’s Literature program at Hollins University and with Orientation and move-in out of the way for my job in Student Activities, it’s great to be back on the blog! I am currently taking an online class for the degree, English 561: Genre Craft - Writing Regional Fiction; the primary focus of our class is on setting and place. Our very first assignment, due last week, was an opening essay on where we are from and what our home of heart is. I enjoyed writing my response so much that I am going to post a majority of it below as this month’s blog post. Please enjoy!

Here at Hollins University, I am earning my MFA in Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating, with an anticipated graduation date of Spring 2022 (this will depend on how long it takes me to complete my thesis). This degree is truly one of a kind and I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m studying children’s literature.  

I am from the suburbs, stretches of dairy farms, and chains of cities. My hometown is in Bel Air, Maryland, a suburban community in Northern Maryland. When my parents moved there in the 1990s, the town wasn’t so much a suburb, but more so farmland and large planes of nothingness. Over time, more people have moved there to escape central Maryland traffic and city life, and now it is a much busier suburb. Bel Air is situated between many farms, so we still get to enjoy that quiet town life, but it is also an exit on I-95.  

If you are familiar with the East Coast, you would know that 95 is the most prominent highway in the region. Because of this, my family has easy access to many Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern cities. From my house and by car, Washington DC is about 2 hours down south, Baltimore is roughly 45 minutes south, Philadelphia is an hour and a half drive up north, and New York City is a three hour trip further north.  

When someone asks me where I am from, I make sure to include those details because it made up a large part of my childhood. My family enjoys roadtrips, and I have family in New York and Philadelphia, so of course I spent quite a lot of time on 95. And of course, my family has made it a priority to explore the local Maryland pastoral settings, from orchard pickings in the fall, to spring garden visits. We also take trips to the beach in the summer and enjoy all the seaside wonders that Delaware and Maryland coasts have to offer.  

As far as my physical home, we have lived in the same house since 2001. I still remember my twin sister and I sitting on the steps with our hands holding up our faces as the movers shuffled our furniture through the doorway during that summer. What’s interesting is that I have lived on the same road my whole life. In the mid 90s, my parents bought an apartment off of route 543. They later moved to a townhouse a little further north on 543 when my sisters and I were toddlers in the late 90s. And finally, 2001 saw the move to our first and current house, still off 543. It’s one of the roads I am most comfortable with, probably because it’s saturated with school and childhood nostalgia (543 is also the home of many of my schools growing up).     

When we moved into the new house, the entire neighborhood was a new development. Because of this, many of us neighbors (primarily young families) became well acquainted with one another, and we often held many large neighborhood events. This included Cinco de Mayo barbecues, Halloween parades, ladies Bunco on Friday nights, and Christmas parties. Several childhood friends were my own neighbors, both girls and boys. We would explore our hilly backyard and the forest that sprouted from the remains of what lay before the rows of houses. I remember picking up toads and running around in rousing games of tag or hide-and-go-seek. I remember playing video games for the first time at the boys’ down the cul-de-sac's house and swimming in neighbor’s pools. I remember drawing on the driveway with chalk, licking popsicles, learning how to ride my bike, walking my dog with my family in the evenings, and watching re-runs of Gilligan’s Island in our family room.  

This is the home of my heart, and I remember it fondly, even still. I grew up with my sisters playing sports: soccer, lacrosse, and tennis, and I spent a lot of time outside either playing with friends or going on long runs or bike rides. My home is all four seasons, hot sidewalk surfaces, raking orange and brown leaves on the front lawn, shoveling snow in the driveway to make snowmen, and watching buds bloom in our backyard garden. My home is also in Main Street Bel Air, a quaint, sweet slice of simple life that just about sums our small town. There are only Mom-and-Pop shops and restaurants, including our favorite pizza joint with owners from Italy (we take pizza seriously in our household, absolutley no chains). The library is a short walk from the pizzeria and the nearby farmer’s market is open from early spring to late autumn in the parking lot behind the courthouse. When I come home on breaks from graduate school, I still visit the local Ma and Pa trail (its namesake derives from a railroad that used to run between Maryland and Pennsylvania). My dad and I ride our bikes to main street, then hitch a trailhead by the new brewery, a hotpsot for several of my old teachers and classmates.     

In undergraduate, I spent four years at Towson University, a 40 minute drive toward the city from my neighborhood in Bel Air. Now, I live at Hollins University, working here year-round as a Graduate Assistant so that my classes are paid for by the school. A five-hour drive from Bel Air, I have not lived this far from home before, and it’s definitely been an experience for me (living on a very small, all-female campus has been somewhat of a challenge). I do enjoy seeing new areas and have explored the possibility of living in a different state, yet my heart is still anchored in Bel Air and my house off 543.