I grew up in New England, with an identical twin, a younger brother, and a menagerie of animals. I did some goofy things as an adolescent: I learned all the constellations in the Western Hemisphere; I regularly rode my banana-seat bicycle for miles to read Archie comics at the nearest general store in our rural town; I built a boat out of milk cartons, then convinced others to join me on the river, then waded to shore with them when it broke up in the first rapid.
I graduated from Stanford University, where I studied Communications. At the time I had a vague idea that perhaps I would become a documentary filmmaker. Instead, in 1989, I became a San Francisco firefighter.
In 1999, I wrote about my thirteen-and-a-half year career in Fighting Fire, an updated version of which came out in 2011. I’d tell you about those years, but really, you should just read the book. I will only say that being in a fire made me happy, and doing emergency medical work intrigued me. All of it made me a better person.
The most remote place I’ve been is Siberia, where I saw a Unidentified Flying Object that may or may not have been the Soviet military. The highest place I’ve been was on a mountain bike in the Bolivian Andes back when mountain bikes were scarce and 15,000 feet didn’t hurt as much as it would now. The most isolated I’ve ever felt was in a blizzard on Denali, where we had to stay in the tent and pee into a Gatorade bottle.
My novel East Wind, Rain came out in 2006. In 2013, Lost Cat, A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology was published. It was named a Best Book by Jezebel and by the influential website Brainpickings. The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure published in 2016, is a rally cry for girl power. Part memoir, part how-to-outdoors guide, this book offers life lessons through adventure stories. It's Lean In for middle grade girls, set not in the workplace but on bicycles, tree branches, sea kayaks, and cliff edges.
In 2018, You Are Mighty: A Guide to Changing the World came out just as teens around the country were taking a stand against gun violence. This illustrated book aims for an even younger audience, teaching kids from 9 -to-12-years-old the tactics of civil engagement and protest. You Are Mighty believes it’s never too early to learn how to raise voices in a constructive, thoughtful way because activism teaches us about our democracy, and about ourselves, and sets a solid foundation for the informed and participatory citizenship every country sorely needs.
Writing never happens in a vaccuum. I've been part of the San Francisco Writers Grotto since 1999; without that community I would have quit this strange career, or gone insane, years ago. I'm also constantly inspired by my kickass siblings: my identical twin is the accomplished actress and activist Alexandra Paul, and my brother is the righteous animal rights leader, Jonathan Paul.
In my free time, I fly an experimental plane. I read books. I go to movies. Much of this is done around San Francisco, where I live with my partner, the artist Wendy MacNaughton, two rescue cats, one rescue dog, an array of solar panels, and countless unread back issues of the New Yorker.