About Me

I'm the author of the novels Arroyo (Chronicle Books) and Wrecker (Bloomsbury, 2011), and teach writing to adults at the University of New Mexico’s Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Taos is home for me but I travel frequently, fueling an interest in place I explore in a blog at www.thewhereofit.com. My non-fiction work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler and other venues. In 2007 I was awarded the $50,000 Literary Gift of Freedom from A Room of Her Own Foundation. Kathy Namba and I have three grown sons, one spoiled mutt, and have served as foster parents through New Mexico’s Child Protective Services.


For me, novels grow out of something – a thought, or an experience – that grabs me and latches on with a force too great to shake off. I’m no easy target. I don’t like obsession any more than the next person; but, once that unresolved experience or troublesome question sets its claws, fiction is the only remedy. Wrecker began with something like that.

Years ago, Kathy Namba and I lived with our three sons in a tiny village in rural northern New Mexico. We had trained to become emergency foster care parents, thinking that if a local kid needed someplace to stay briefly while the family was in trouble, we could harbor him or her for a weekend or so. Our place was overrun with kids, anyway. The screen door kept slamming as one neighbor child or another came or went. What was one more for a couple of days?

One, maybe; but the first call we got was for four small brothers who needed a family to stay with. Their parents were both battling drug problems, in trouble with the law, and the authorities had removed the kids upon confirmation of neglect. Sally, the social worker, said that if we couldn’t take these boys – aged 4, 3, 2, and not-quite-1 – they’d be split up and sent to different homes.

You want us to take them for the weekend?

Well, no, she said, and coughed politely into her hand. Indefinitely.

We each knew what the other was thinking. Was this some kind of bad joke? Our own sons were growing like weeds, but the oldest was barely into his teens, and they still needed a lot of our attention. Kathy worked full-time; I was writing my first novel. Four more kids? Where would the time come from?

But right on the heels of that: what if something happened to us and our three boys were separated from one another?

And so we were inducted, rather hastily, into the CYFD foster care program. For nearly two winter months, these small boys – who came to us with pneumonia, an amazing roster of aberrant behaviors, a black trash bag of shorts, t-shirts, and ill-fitting sneakers, and the most cherubic little faces – lived in our home and rapidly took up residence in our hearts.

It’s a long story, the saga of their journey back and forth, into and out of their parents’ custody. We became friends of the family, kind of informal kin to the boys. We were on hand to help when a fifth child was born with medical complications. We rooted for the parents, celebrated with them, wept with them, and when, at last, the whole house of cards came tumbling down, we felt our hearts break for them as their parental rights were terminated and the boys were adopted out to separate families.

I didn’t write this novel in conscious response to having fostered those children. As any novel will, it grew out of a rank stew of personal experience, literary experiment, political inquiry, and meandering imagination – with a good dose of love, whimsy, fear, humor, and warped psychological obsession thrown in. This imaginary child, Wrecker, arrived in a public playground one June afternoon in 1965, and I wanted to know what would happen to him. I wanted to know his mother, and how she lost him, and who would come to love and raise him, and what kind of man he would turn out to be.

There are more than half a million children in foster care in this country. Some of them will be reunited with their families at some point. Their mom will get out of prison, or the cadre of officials responsible for this kind of thing will decide that the parent is fit to once more be trusted with custody of her or his own children. Many more will remain in the system, traveling from home to home, eventually aging out. A few – a small percentage, really – will find safe, loving, permanent homes through adoption. Even those will have lasting scars from the experience of having been separated from their original families.

In writing this book, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the plight of mothers in prison. But I also learned about the tremendous leap of faith taken by anyone who adopts a child from foster care. It is a radical expression of love to parent any child. I’ve come to believe that there’s no right way to do it. It can only be done by trial and error, and error, and error, and trying again.

Love never lets you off the hook.

Now, at last, our sons grown, I have finished this book. The kid is there, in the middle. That’s where I began, and that’s where I ended up. Because politics and history notwithstanding, it’s the simple fact – and shining beauty – of the child himself that matters to me.

And even a novel must someday leave home and make its way in the world.

Summer Wood
Taos, New Mexico


Contact Info

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For publicity inquiries, media interviews, and review copies, contact:

Carrie Majer 
Email: carrie.majer@bloomsburyusa.com
Phone: 646.307.5067

For Film or Foreign Rights:

Daniel Conaway of Writers House Literary Agency
Email: dconaway@writershouse.com
Phone: 212.696.3825