A Little Backstory
How did I end up a writer? Well, the tried and true answer is I have always been a writer; I just didn’t know it. I wrote a lot in high school (oh, angsty teen poetry!), and while in college, I worked in a children’s theater where I was essentially the on-staff show doctor. Perhaps the highlight of those years was the musical adaptation of The Hobbit, produced with permission from the Tolkien estate.
After college, I worked as an artist for a small computer game company, leading to a graphic design career. One thing stood out: the further I got away from working on things kids would enjoy, the unhappier I became about the work. Corporate gigs paid the bills, but they didn’t fill the soul.
About fifteen years ago, I took a creative vacation at the Cape Cod Writers Conference. I signed up for a class on making picture books and saw another on writing comics taught by a writer whose name I recognized. A Marvel guy. A Name. I didn’t think I’d ever write a comic book, but I knew I could be a fanboy in his class and love every minute. At the end of the week, The Name read my piece aloud and said it was professional caliber work.
Sometimes, you need to be hit on the head with the light bulb before it goes off. Yeah, I was a writer.
I started writing with intent, found my way into an SCBWI crit group, and from there, Vermont College of Fine Arts for an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Along the way, some of the picture books turned into middle-grade stories, and the guy who was never-gonna-write-a-comic book wrote a YA superhero novel for his creative thesis.
Since then, I’ve worked on two middle-grade novels, ghosted a non-fiction book, and wrote a graphic novel that almost got killed by the pandemic but managed to come out in 2022.
I love writing for kids, maybe because the books I read at that age have stayed with me.
The ones that imprinted themselves on me were The Mouse and the Motorcycle, The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Prydain, and Charles Addams’s cartoon collections (I got odd looks from the children’s librarians). I also devoured encyclopedias and anything by Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak.
When I started the whole “writing with intent” thing, I dove back into books for kids. The books that made me sit up and want more were Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, and 8th Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. These books had humor and heart and transported me to characters that saw the world through eyes unlike my own.
In my work now, I try to balance humor and heart, striving to reveal shared truths, whether in fart jokes or tragedies, in friendships or solitude. Showing those places we all live and where we sometimes feel most lost.
The right word, on the right day, in the right hands, can be life-changing. That change might be as ephemeral as a smile that flashes in a moment or as profound as a beacon that shines long after the book’s been closed. Hearing from kids who love a book or parents who say their child can’t put it down makes writing worth it.