Tracy Seeley’s first two sentences were “I go out” and “I can’t tell you,” foretelling a life of adventure and mystery. Or at least a lot of moving around. By last count, she’d claimed 26 different addresses, half of those before she was nine. She grew up mostly in Wichita, Kansas, a few blocks from the Arkansas River. (That’s pronounced Ar-KAN-sas). This life of mobility inspired her recent memoir, My Ruby Slippers: The Road Back to Kansas. The book explores what it means to live deeply in the places we find ourselves, both literally and metaphorically. What does it mean to be at home in our life?
After high school in Wichita, college in Dallas and graduate school in Austin, where she finished a Ph.D. in British Lit, she taught at Yale for five years before hoofin’ it west to San Francisco in 1993. And there, for the most part, she’s stayed. Except for a semester in Caracas, a semester in Barcelona, a semester in Budapest, and three years living half-time in L.A. Oh, and after 17 years of living in The City, recently moving to Oakland.
She’s been at the University of San Francisco since 1993, teaching literature and creative nonfiction. There, she has won the Distinguished Teaching Award and the College Service Award, and spent a year as the NEH Chair in Humanities, during which time she started taking her first awkward stabs at My Ruby Slippers. In addition to teaching, she currently runs a program for supporting faculty writing. So she spends a lot of time organizing writing groups, salons and workshops, determined to change writing from a solitary to a community activity. In the midst of it all, and above all, she’s raised two smart and darkly witty daughters who now live too far away.
For the moment, Tracy lives in Oakland with her husband Frederick Marx, a filmmaker. There, she grows vegetables, writes, grades papers, and hangs out on her stoop, talking to neighbors. She is plotting to acquire some backyard chickens. She figures if she gets chickens, she’ll never have to move again.