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I was born in Ithaca, New York, while my father, also named Allison, was earning his doctorate in biology at Cornell. For the next ten years, my family traveled quite a bit as he moved up the professorial ranks. Aside from domestic travels, we also traveled abroad, for sabbatical leaves in Brussels and in Naples. When I was ten, my father was offered a job at Northwestern University. We moved to Evanston, Illinois, where I attended the local public high school and college at Northwestern.
At Northwestern, I acted in plays, while majoring in the Oral Interpretation of Literature. Soon, my writing was far more important to me than my acting. I graduated early and, at twenty years old, moved to New York City. The following year, I attended the Juilliard School as a fellow of the Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Program.
For the next decade, I worked as a legal proofreader and a high school tutor, while writing fiction full-time. As I was without an agent, my work went largely unread. In 1990, weary of struggle, I moved to Los Angeles to write screenplays.
Within a year of arriving here, I was making a living as a screenwriter, but, as I soon discovered, a living is not a life. I decided to return to my roots and write fiction, as well.