Beaufort, South Carolina, resident Teresa Bruce has worn many different hats in her lifetime. She’s been an Olympic hopeful, a nomadic traveler, a broadcast journalist and a public relations executive. Most recently, she wears the hat of “accomplished book author.”
Where did you grow up?
I’ve been a nomad since the age of seven, born in Oregon to parents who couldn’t put down roots. So when I finally wandered into the South Carolina Lowcountry as a TV reporter in the ’90s, I grew my own. This is the place that feels like home to me.
You spent part of your childhood traveling through South America in a homemade camper with your family. What was the best and worst part of that experience?
The hardest part was leaving one worried granny, the only one I’d ever known. Around the time I was feeling most sorry for myself, I met a hippie (I thought she was a gypsy) camping on the beach. She sensed my loneliness and told me that in her crystal ball she saw that I would make close friends everywhere we moved. I made that come true. I think traveling develops your ability to sense kindred spirits and treasure them.
As a teen, you were ranked fourth in the United States for rhythmic gymnastics, but an injury forced you to quit the sport before competing in the Olympics. How did you move forward from that?
I loathed competition by then, but Olympic-bound athletes don’t just quit. I was actually relieved to break my back because I could move on with my life without feeling like I was letting down my coaches and parents. But it wasn’t until I met my “other mother,” the dancer Byrne Miller, that I realized what I’d loved about the sport all along was dance. Even now I think of myself as a dancer disguised as a writer.
What brought you to the Lowcountry?
I was practically blown in by Hurricane Hugo fresh out of grad school. I’d just started a TV reporting job at the PBS affiliate in Beaufort and was too naïve to evacuate. I camped at the TV station with my dog and got my start as an anchor before I even knew how to pronounce the names of towns along the evacuation route—Pocotaligo, Salkehatchie and Yemassee.
Do you have any connections with Charleston?
I fell in love with Charleston because the Byrne Miller Dance Theatre used to poach talent from Spoleto. When you’re a dancing writer, transplanted to a small town in the Deep South, finding Charleston is like true north.
Pat Conroy has called you “one of America’s next great writers.” Did that surprise you?
There is no author alive who supports young writers more than Pat Conroy and those gracious words, coming from the writer I admire most in the world, was like finally winning an Olympic gold medal. The crowning wreath of laurel, though, was when he bought 18 copies of my book, The Other Mother: A Rememoir, for me to autograph as gifts for all the mothers and daughters in his life.
What is The Other Mother: A Rememoir about?
It’s the story of the friendship between an 82-year-old former burlesque dancer from New York (Byrne Miller) and a 22-year-old rookie reporter transplanted to the Deep South (me). Byrne showed me how to reinvent myself and choreograph my own identity. The book celebrates the universal fact that we all need “other mothers.” Sometimes it takes a complete stranger to show us who we are meant to be.
Do you aspire to be an “other mother”?
I’ll claim credit for any brilliant person who says I made an impact in their life, but, truthfully, you can’t hang out a shingle that says “other mothering available here.” It happens when you’re willing to leap into the life of someone utterly unrelated to you by birth.
Where can people buy your book?
You can order them directly through the publisher, Joggling Board Press (jogglingboardpress.com) in Summerville, at any bookstore or online.
Who inspires you?
“Who” changes every time I reinvent myself but “what” inspires me is a constant: the Lowcountry. It’s more than a setting or backdrop for my books. It is a central character in my life. Tidal rivers are a metaphor for everything I’ve learned about love and loss—no matter how low they get, they will reverse direction and fill back up again with muddy truth.
What advice would you give would-be authors?
Be burlesque! If you’re writing a memoir, remember that it’s not about documenting every facet of your life. Slyly reveal the parts that bring your story alive on the page.
How do you spend your leisure time?
If you’ve read the book you’ll know that I’m secretly a mermaid. So, when I’m not writing books or shooting videos, I’m in the creek outside my house kayaking or swimming.
What’s next for you?
I’m doing more public relations and marketing work for corporate clients, but another memoir is percolating. It’s about trading in a high-stakes career for the freedom of driving a camper all the way to Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina!