As a kid, I didn’t like to read. That was back when I thought being a good reader only meant you had to read quickly. A good family friend hooked me with a series called “Choose Your Own Adventure” where a reader would make choices at the bottom of a page and be directed to a different page until the main character succeeded in his quest or succumbed to some miserable, bloody death because of the choice one made. They got me reading and I never looked back.
One would think that I’d have been a natural reader since both of my parents taught English in high school. Each year I would bounce from one parent to the other as I was required to take English all four years. Little did I know at the time, that these experiences would lead me to seek a career path in education.
I’ve taught middle school reading/English for 18 years. Teaching literature has always been my strength as a teacher. I love to get totally wrapped up in a story, try to predict what’s going to happen next, and ponder the “what ifs.” Realizing the importance of being knowledgeable about the books my students were reading, I began reading young adult novels. I now refuse to read anything else. In the past 18 years, I've only read one novel not written for young adults (& it took a Tom Osborne book to do it).
|Another interesting part of my life is the ranch my family owns and operates. Though we grew up in a town 1 ½ hours away from the ranch, ranching life was a central part of my youth. Throughout my childhood the ranch served as an adventure-land, with days of fishing, hunting, hiking, and exploring. The great wide-open outdoors allowed my mind the freedom to imagine—trees became the hidden realms of black ninjas and any stick could wield the power of Excalibur. As I grew older, my play time turned into hours working—many weekends and summers have been spent herding cattle, fixing fences, cutting cedar trees, and controlling noxious weeds. Though the work can be tough, I still enjoy the fruits of a hard day’s work as long as I’m allowed time to catch the often-recorded Husker game when the sun’s gone down.|
|I knew my entire childhood that I wanted to attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and officially become a Husker. I’ve always been a sports’ fan, but when you are from small town Nebraska, you’re born to bleed red. It wasn’t until I met my wife that I adopted a couple of other teams worth rooting for. An Omaha native, Anne had long cheered on the Creighton Bluejay basketball team. We are now season ticket holders and watch and cheer at each home game. She also made sure that I began following the Cubs. Every season we would travel to Chicago for a three game home series. I was hooked the first time I entered Wrigley Field. It didn’t hurt that Sammy Sosa happened to be chasing the home run record at the time which made each of his at-bats an exciting spectacle.|
|The most exciting events of my life, though, were the births of my two children. They are simply the greatest parts of my existence. I might note that both of them absolutely love books and will refuse to go to bed unless their standard two books have been read to them. You see, they’ve got it worse than I did having two English teacher parents—with a reading teacher father who’s also an author and a mother who’s a library/media teacher—they never had a chance.|
Nine years ago I made up my mind that I was going to try to write my first YA novel. I had been volunteering as a senior counselor for HOBY leadership conference and got into a discussion about future goals. When it came to my turn, a question was directed toward me about what I was going to do with the rest of my summer (as I have a brief vacation time during the summer months). Without hesitation, I replied, “Write a book.” I’m not sure what possessed me to make this completely irrational statement, because I had not given even a shred of prior thought about it, but it felt right.
What’s interesting is that the very next day I came up with the idea for the novel in the first five minutes of brainstorming possible plots. Then, through incredible luck, I discovered an article in the