Loretta Hall, During her First 44 Years
FRANK GREGORSKY: What kind of a kid were you?
LORETTA HALL: Kinda quiet. Studious. Hung out with my brother Frank (who is three years older than I am). Hung out with him and his friends a lot. Didn't really get involved in sports until I was in high school; and then I was on the tennis team for a year or two. I was also on the math team.
GREGORSKY: Where was home?
HALL: When I tell about my life, it sounds like I moved around a lot. But it didn't feel that way. I was born in Tennessee, but my parents moved to Kansas when I was six months old -- Kansas was my mother's original home. So I grew up in southwest Kansas -- Dodge City, of all places.
GREGORSKY: When you were a kid, did you keep a diary?
HALL: Sometimes. But it was a short one. I never really got into journal-writing. It was one of those five-year models [laughter] -- so I kept track of things, but [it didn't leave room] to pour out my soul.
GREGORSKY: What about working on the school newspaper?
HALL: I don't even remember if we had one. But I enjoyed writing in my English classes.
GREGORSKY: What contests or awards did you win heading toward age 18?
HALL: Mostly in the science and math areas -- I won science awards from Bausch and Lomb, and Bank of America, my senior year. I also won one award for Spanish, and was valedictorian. Basically I enjoyed all of my classes -- except maybe biology.
GREGORSKY: So was it more "ideas" you were fascinated with as opposed to words?
HALL: Yeah, I think being interested in the ideas is what I enjoyed. And that's still part of what I enjoy. Being a free-lance writer [allows you to] learn about something new for each magazine article. Sharing that information with somebody else makes the effort productive -- financially and from a satisfaction standpoint.
GREGORSKY: Was either parent a formative influence there?
HALL: Well, I think our home atmosphere, especially with my dad, helped -- he was always introducing us to new ideas and current events, having dialogues with us that sort of prodded us into thinking.
GREGORSKY: At the dinner table, too?
HALL: Yeah. Another thing we were always encouraged to do was read, and I used to love to go to the library.
GREGORSKY: In high school, did you have a hero or "role model," or perhaps just a professor who opened your eyes in some key way?
HALL: [12-second pause] Not really. I had some good teachers, who were mostly pretty accessible. We would have some interesting conversations, but I can't cite anyone in particular.
GREGORSKY: Was your dad in business?
HALL: He was a grain-elevator superintendent, and of course that was big stuff in Kansas. About the time I was turning 16, he actually got a job at a grain elevator in the Long Beach [California] terminal, where they did international shipping of grains.
GREGORSKY: Did his work cause the move from Kansas to the west coast?
HALL: No. In fact it absolutely horrifies me now, when I look back on it. He quit his job, we moved to California, and then he started job-hunting. My parents [chose] California to give my brother and me better educational opportunities. We lived in Huntington Beach. I graduated from high school there. Then I went to College near Pomona, California -- one of the Claremont Colleges.
GREGORSKY: That was Peter Drucker's academic home.
HALL: Yeh. And the one I went to was Harvey Mudd College, which was a science and engineering school. I planned on majoring in physics. After my freshman year, I got married [laughter] -- to a fellow who was graduating right then. So we went to Texas for a year. Tried out a graduate school in one topic area, didn't like it that much. So we went to Seattle, where he finished his masters and Ph.D., and I finished my undergraduate work.
GREGORSKY: You got a BA in Seattle.
HALL: I got a BS there -- ended up majoring in math.
GREGORSKY: What happened to the physics aspiration?
HALL: College-level physics was not nearly as interesting as high-school level physics. I liked the basic mechanics, but Harvey Mudd College was rather intense -- as freshmen, we were doing quantum physics. I liked the higher-level math more than the higher-level physics.
Hall taught high-school math -- first in Seattle, then in Silver Spring, Maryland. She entered a Masters program, and halfway through that program "suddenly became a mother. We had not been successful in having children, so we applied for adoption" -- and the process moved a lot faster than anticipated. Loretta opted for full-time parenthood, cutting against the avant-garde ideal of the mid-1970s. "I guess I never really cared a lot what other people thought of my choices." She and her husband Jerry added two more daughters to that first, adopted one, and by 1977 were living in Albuquerque. By 1990, at age 44, a "writing career" beckoned, partly because it was something she could carry out from home...