I was born in Savannah, Georgia and grew up in a small town called Metter, sixty miles northwest. I first discovered writing through sound. As an infant, I crawled around the ankles of two of the best storytellers I’ve ever heard, my maternal grandmother and true Southern queen, Rubye Trapnell Becker, and my father, Hugh Esten Cromartie Jr., a legendary whitetail deer hunter and T-4 paraplegic with no legs. When I was old enough to make requests, I’d ask them to tell my favorite stories over and over again, sometimes four or five times in a row. The plots were not what I found most interesting. It was the way they told these stories that never got old.
When I was ten, I discovered the power of the written word while plundering in my mother’s bedroom. I’m a plunderer. It’s one of my greatest strengths. I found a diary of sorts that chronicled some of my and my brother’s childhood antics. Of course I read it. I found that words strung together in a certain way had the capacity to make me laugh and to make me cry. It made me want to write. It made me want to write so bad that I swallowed the ink from my mother’s pen, hoping that somehow the magic would get into my blood. I’ve been writing ever since.
Gradle Bird was a finalist in the 2015 William Faulkner – William Wisdom novel writing competition. My first novel, which is marinating in a drawer, ranked the same in 2011. My other writing credits include the short story and screenplay of the produced, albeit homespun film, The Pigeon Catcher (Ceiba Productions 2002). I started my professional career at age twelve, working as a dishwasher, waitress, and cook at a truck stop off I-16. I have held various positions throughout my working life: envelope licker, tortoise tagger, lifeguard, Senate page, model, editor, water-polo coach, marine biologist, plant grower, software consultant, and 6-Sigma Black Belt. My husband, Thomas, and I, along with our two sons, T.C. and Robert Esten, and two dogs, Cro and Blue Moon June, live in an old barn on Edisto Island, SC. To this day, my mother is one of my favorite writers.