When I was born in June of 1961, not only was my sun sign in Gemini, so was the moon and Gemini’s ruling planet, Mercury. None of my homies were into astrology at the time, so I didn’t realize I was doomed. Blissfully ignorant, I turned my innate attention deficit disorder and penchant for taking mechanical objects apart into a varied and interesting career path with more twists than the Burma Road.
Always a bit arty, I first tried my hand at illustration, doing my first paid freelance job at 14. (Thanks, Dad.) Since art directors weren’t exactly beating down the door, I also got a minimum wage job. While trying to avoid having to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” I served as a reporter and layout editor for my high school newspaper.
Following graduation, I suffered the inertia common to all liberal arts students, and decided I was sick of school. I worked several different jobs that included picture framer, auto mechanic, electronics salesperson and deputy sheriff in undercover narcotics. Yes, really.
Tired of putting my life at risk for six bucks an hour, I decided to attend the University of Wisconsin system as an art student. Quickly realizing that was the fast lane to starvation and chronic fashion faux pas, I left college in 1981. I took a job as a production artist at a newspaper group in a Milwaukee suburb, later moving to a small weekly on the city’s south side and freelancing with a few Milwaukee area ad agencies and design studios. Through it all, I continued to write ad copy and the occasional feature story for the papers.
After a few years as a freelance graphic designer, I became the art director for NorthWord Press, a small nature book publisher in Wisconsin’s Great Northwoods. I went back out on my own when the company moved away from books toward producing music cassettes, CDs and videos, but I never got books out of my system. In fact, I wrote my first book, Wisconsin: The Way Were Were, 1845-1945 for Heartland Press, a NorthWord imprint, right after I left. The book came out in 1993 and I was hooked forever. I knew I’d always be an author in one form or another.
My second book, Rural America: A Pictorial Folk Memory came out in 1995, and won an award from the MidAmerica Publishers Association. I did a small tour of New England and the MidAtlantic region in support of it, and decided I missed the East Coast. I stayed in Wisconsin long enough to see the Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl in February, 1997. The next day, I drove my loaded moving van back to my much-missed, beloved home state of Pennsylvania.
I settled in Bucks County, where I mainly freelanced as a graphic designer until realizing I was competing with every high school kid who had a computer and a desktop publishing program. By June 2001, I’d become thoroughly disenchanted with the ad agency life. I resigned my position as president of a small agency in Lambertville, New Jersey and again struck out on my own. This time, though, I left graphics behind to finally follow the path I realized I’d always been on…that of a writer.
That was ten years ago. Now I split my time between freelance writing for magazines and books, consulting with small and micro-businesses on their marketing needs, and publishing books. I’ve written another book, Devastation on the Delaware: Stories and Images of the Deadly Flood of 1955, published in 2005 and selling almost 6,000 copies to date. I also curated an anthology with one of my pieces in it, Almost Perfect: Disabled Pets and the People Who Love Them.
Ever unable to focus too long on any one thing, I also dabble in drawing, painting, teaching, metal detecting and blacksmithing. I’m frequently tired…but never bored.