We all have a little of every race in us, my anthropology professor said, and I like to believe that's true. Now me, I know I'm half English--Mother's parents were born in England, and a visit there felt like going home. My father's side is probably mostly northern European, but I've never known for sure. I do claim to be half hobbit--with a maiden name of Bilbo, wouldn't you? And (does this count?) I have sawdust in my blood from three years spent in a high school circus, doing aerial ballet and swinging ladder (and as a bonus, getting out of gym classes).

But I'm nowhere near being the melting pot I've often wished I were. Still, I've found a way, in the writing of fiction, to make that wish feel true. To create a character means to become in some degree that character, to step beyond the borders of my age, my gender, my country, my religious upbringing, my race, even my species and my planet.

In stories I've become the young girl I used to be--and also a young boy part Native American. I've become an African-American grandmother, a Jewish veterinarian, and their granddaughter; been an old Irishman defeating the ravages of a stroke and a German student haunted by an imaginary girlfriend. A ferret, a cat, a dog, a horse--I've been those, and even several aliens from other planets.

And I still have so many other unwritten characters knocking around inside of me that I sometimes worry about finding time enough to give each of them their share of daylight on the page.

Do I ever wish I were somebody else? No--because as a writer, I can be all the different somebody elses I want to be.

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