When I was ten, I dreamed of becoming an author. When I was thirty, I wrote a book. The distance between those two points was multi-dimensional. A gap of twenty years, yes, but there was also a chasm of impossibility that my ten-year-old eyes perceived. A chasm so wide my dreams became fantasies.
I grew up homeschooled and impoverished, with ADHD that would not be diagnosed until I was an adult. When I was six and my friends received video games for Christmas, my parents could only afford to give me a library card. Yet that gift opened up the world for me. I consumed books like an addict. The shelves in the Juvenile section were too small. I finished off their contents before Summer. The adult section fared little better. Before long, I was re-reading my favorites. I learned whimsy from L. Frank Baum and suspense from Edgar Allan Poe, irony from Dumas and brevity from Hemingway. Through it all, I learned to love the authors as much as the books.
While my parents gave me a love of reading, they also gave me a fear of writing. They were suspicious of the arts, particularly anything that challenged their fundamentalist worldview. When my mother read my first short story, she paled at my descriptions of evil gnomes and human mutilation. Her discouragement kept me from sharing my stories for over a decade.
When I went to college (a school I chose because my mother worked there, so it was free, and it was a Bible college, so my parents approved), my ADHD took its toll on my life. I struggled through four years of terrible attendance and worse study habits before I left school to marry my girlfriend. And I am so thankful that I did.
My wife discovered the writer in me during our first year of marriage. She encouraged me to pursue my dream. Seven years after I had abandoned college, she pushed me to return and take a creative writing class. When I graduated with my BA and almost 200 credit hours to my name, it was thanks to her. When I sent the first pages of my novel to an online writing convention and received offers from literary agents, it was thanks to her. And when my first book, The Troubles of Johnny Cannon, released in 2014, it is to her that the book is dedicated.
I have published three novels through Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. The follow up Johnny Cannon book, The Struggles of Johnny Cannon, released in 2015 and AbrakaPOW released in 2016. Of those three novels, two have received critical acclaim and earned awards and recognition from state level library associations and teacher organizations.
I have also been privileged to work with the amazing team at Gen-Z Media (Peabody winners, by the way) in creating their first feature length audio drama, Iowa Chapman and the Last Dog. Writing the script for this story was a dream come true and a taste of what I feel future stories I might tell could be.
When I assessed my author journey from dream to reality, I recognized how important encouragement and support has been for me. I also realized that, as hard as it has been for me to overcome poverty and mental illness, I am still a straight, white male. The obstacles faced by others coming from under-represented groups are far greater. My dream now is to empower students, particularly those who face overwhelming obstacles, and train them up. That way we can tell stories, all of us, that can make this world a better place.