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Bridgette Alexander Photo by Lisa Predko

Chicago Illinois has been home to some of the most spectacular people in modern history. You know many of them – Oprah, Michael Jordan, the Chicago Cubs, Green Day. Some of the most exciting developments of US history have also happened in Chicago – world’s fairs, the invention of the skyscraper – and me, on September 21 1965. Right around the time the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were settling into their fame, there was the birth of me on the west side of Chicago. Yes, I came into being carrying a love of music, movies, books and story-telling.

As I grew, so did my love of reading and losing myself inside of t.v. books and music. Although these popular arts may seem far removed from each other, they became sister resources for me to imagine myself into a rich and engaged life. That’s how I started writing. Fortunately I had an appreciative audience to tell my stories. Between all of my dolls of Farah Fawcett Majors, Cher, Charlie’s Angels, Donny & Marie, and of course a yearly supply of various Barbies, and my sometimes indulgent grandparents, in fact, I had a captive audience. Thus I created new adventures in a constant stream of writing.

I spent a lot of my childhood enjoying an occasional movie, television, the Movies of the Week, all of the cops and spy shows – Charlie’s Angels, the Bionic Woman, The Rookies, their spinoff S.W.A.T., Starsky & Hutch. And variety shows like Dean Martin, Flip Wilson, The Donny & Marie Show, the top shows of the day. If I wasn’t watching television, I was reading everything I could get my hands on, especially biographies of American leaders in politics or industry so I could keep up in conversation with my grandfather.

Like many kids, I found my favorites books through Weekly Readers and devoured my bibles – 16 Magazine, Tiger Beat, Right On! and People Magazine.  I don’t think that I read a lot of typical mainstream books growing up. I certainly didn’t find stories of brides, princesses and happy-ever-after especially enjoyable. Stories of adventures, fighting against enormous odds love and even finding friendship were my favorites. The 1974 story of The Life and Bad Times of Irma Baumlein taught me a lot about what not to do if you want to make friends. I so loved losing myself in these books – also books about mysteries, other worlds and girl who were lead characters – that I wanted to live in those worlds. The Brothers Grimm and Nancy Drew were two of my best-loved collections.

My passion for writing was nurtured by my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Einhorn at Nash School. I wrote my first story about aliens coming down and creating spaceships that allowed us to travel to their homes. Keep in mind, this was 1975, and I was a huge fan of the televisions series Buck Rogers and Saturday morning’s Electric Woman & Dyna Girl. Besides, it seemed that almost nightly, the news shows reported of alien spottings. So it wasn’t so far-fetched. My grandparents were the other nurturers of my life of writing, or as I like to call it, ecriture. As a gift to my host, I wrote a play for my grandma’s sister when we visited her in Manhattan – a trip that planted the seed that ultimately brought me back to NYC to live nine years later.

Once I reached middle school I began to combine art with my stories and included my family, friends and dolls (yeah, I know…but what can I say?) Inspired by women rockers such as Heart and arena bands such as Journey and Lover Boy, I began to think how I could fit my love of writing, drawing, music and television into the larger world. It didn’t hurt that at my middle school, Michelle E. Clarke Middle School, in 1978 distributed book covers that promoted a new album by an unknown musician, the artist-formerly-known-as-and-who-now has-returned-to-being-known-as-Prince (gosh, that’s a mouthful), For You.

I wanted to bring the fantasy of television, enlightenment of novels and stories, and the mind moving phenomenon of music together – at least to get myself through grade and high school. Oh, yeah, my high school – where our first lady, Michelle Obama, the children of Jesse Jackson and the makers of the Matrix, the Wachowski Brothers, and I were happy Dolphins at Whitney Young Magnet High School. But unfortunately for me, high school also brought what seems the enviable mantra of “you can’t make a living doing that” to me almost on a daily basis. So I buried myself in every music group from Journey to the Police to figure it out: How could I still be creative but take good care of myself.

I went on to Mundelein College and Smith College as an art history major with this burning yet unanswered question. I even took some time away from college and worked in the trading pits of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange – the “Merc.” I lost a lot of my money and returned to college at Columbia University.

It was while I was at Columbia University studying art history and living in the art capital of the world that I chose to pursue a career as an art historian. In class I hung on my seat as though I was watching a movie, that I realized that was it. I would study art history, become a scholar and tell interesting stories about artists, here’s the cool biz – I could, write and continue to develop my imagination through daydreaming, fantasizing and doodling in class about artists and their wild locations. In art history you choose a country when you choose a subject to study. And hey, I wanted to go to Paris. So it was French art for me.

I studied and wrote; I worked in New York, Chicago and Paris in some of the most exciting museums in the world. I entered graduate school at the University of Chicago and eventually taught as an instructor at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. I even started an art-advising firm and met some of the world’s most intriguing art collectors. This was a lot of fun, but I was still missing just the all-out adventure that I had enjoyed as a kid reading and writing stories.

I won’t bore you with the next episode of angst I went through, but in the end it hit me: I would return to writing stories combining art, and adventure, thrillers and mysteries.

The audience I most enjoy is young people near the beginning of their creative lives who want to lose themselves in a story. For them and for myself I’ve written Celine Caldwell Mysteries; Marked – The Worlds of Tyler Cain; and Princessed – Is Pink Really The Color For Me? And since there is so much time ahead of me, I have a lot more stories to tell.

My inspiration?  My young daughter Chloe and husband David, with whom I am on the most exciting adventures of my life…ever!

Perhaps I have finally answered that question I asked more than 25 years ago. Perhaps I have figured out how I can combine creatively and life. Stay tuned.

Photo by Sophy