Author. Tall Guy. Public Speaker.

Despite popular opinion, being an author is more than merely sitting in coffee shops and eavesdropping on the conversations of nervous, highly-caffeinated people. (Though it is a fair amount of that…)

The secret second-half of this whole author gig is being a public speaker.
Basically an author is a motivational speaker, of sorts, that tries to get people excited about character, setting, and punctuation – which can be a tough sell…but I love it.

My job now entails hanging out with/being inspired by young readers and writers. We laugh, get creative, and try to figure out why we all love stories so much.

I’d say that’s pretty cool, as far as jobs go.

I’ve now been doing school visits for a few years and can say they’ve all been enjoyable.
Visiting schools helps me stay connected with not only readers and writers, but with my own ideas. I usually leave with a thought or two that will hopefully end up in future stories.
Being a public speaker has also been an organic way to incorporate the tiny amount of live performance I’ve done around Chicago.
About ten years ago I came to Chicago planning on making it big in the improv comedy world. I had thoughts of being the next Tina Fey or Steve Carell. That, ah, didn’t happen.But what did happen was an introduction into the world of first-person storytelling. What is that, exactly?

It’s whatever you want to call it:
Live lit.
Story time.
The stuff that’s on ‘The Moth.’
Some form of un-licensed, free public therapy.

It’s basically people telling their favorite and most cherished stories to rooms full of (mostly) patient and eager strangers.

For a few years I was lucky to tell my weird stories to paying audiences.
Those shows sharpened my skills and made me understand things like:
-giving a story room to breathe
-the difficulty of cutting parts you love when your story is breathing a little *too* much
-what is funny in real life vs. what is only funny in my head. (Spoiler alert: quite a lot.)

-sweat management (Bombing is natural and healthy for all performers. Bomb early, bomb often! It’s good to get a few of those out of the way.)

While I didn’t know it at the time, telling stories in Chicago prepared me for things like Skype visits with book clubs and Facebook live chats.
Being on stage has made it easier for me to nervously speak to my computer, alone, for about 40 uninterrupted minutes.

So, while I’m not sure if I anticipated this career path, each visit always leaves me encouraged and inspired.
And since most people reading my books are probably smarter than me, most visits end with me asking them about their new favorite reads and hearing about what they love about writing.
As humans we all get to share in the power of story, and I’ve been trying my best to create a school visit that urges students to think differently about the stories/movies/books they love.
I try and let students know those cherished stories were once ideas in an author’s brain…until they got to work.

And so, all this is to say: if you or someone you know can think of an elementary school in need of an author visit, preferably in or around the Chicago area, please send an email to [email protected] and I’d love to see if we can make it happen.Until then – keep reading and writing!