Gretchen grew up in the suburbs of Salt Lake City, Utah, back in the days when girls were required to wear dresses to school. She got expelled from fifth grade for a day because she dared to wear blue jeans. Her favorite games as a kid were hiding in the tops of tall trees and making up songs, or playing Tarzan in the backyard willow tree. For all the unflattering things she has written about her father, a herpetologist whose specialty was turtles, she fully realizes that being the child of a scientist had its great gifts: the house was full of terrariums and aquariums inside of which were horny toads, lizards, snakes, small turtles, and fish. Sometimes she and her siblings got to feed the snakes pink baby mice. In addition, several box turtles freely roamed the house, often helping themselves to the cat food. To this day, if she sees a snake, her first impulse is to pick it up. Her mother was an artist/housewife who taught her and her siblings to love books, be kind, learn to bake, and make cool stuff out of salt dough, clay, milkweed pods, glitter and clothespins.