TO EVERY STORY A BEGINNING
In 1993, I received my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois. I decided on an abbreviated stay on the concrete campus in Chicago, grinding out my degree in 3 ½ years. Maybe it was the long winters combined with the Brutalist architecture. Perhaps it was to avoid a third helping of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. Who can say?
Ultimately I escaped the absurdity of academia without throttling a single professor. Not even in intermediate fiction where my story proposal met with the chilling decree that horror wasn’t a valid genre. I’m not usually one to name names, but I might have Tuckerized Eugene Wildman for that.
Anywho, despite my endless sass, the English department granted my release, even humoring me with highest distinction for something or other. The Creative Writing track, a discipline in itself, felt like a double major shoehorned alongside the same requirements as a Literature degree. Did I mention that I worked full-time through school? So yeah, I gladly accepted my participation trophy.
DOWN THE LONG hard ROAD
I spent the next 15 years selling books. Unfortunately they weren’t my books. I traveled the country running some of the finest bookstores in the USA—and fixing some of the shittiest. I have an acrylic star from Borders to prove the former and lumps on my psyche as evidence of the latter.
Somewhere along the way life happened. The biggest changes came unexpectedly in 2008. Over a stretch of three months while away on paternity leave, I finished my first novel. A bulk of the writing was done in that metaphoric bubble with baby literally strapped to my chest. (I need to find pictures…)
The arrival of my son Tristan and the birth of the novel I had been gestating since college stand as highlights in an otherwise awful time.
I returned to Borders, a chain of “no longer fine” bookstores, just in time for its downshift into reality. After a decade of being bullied by hedge funds and golden showered—err, parachuted—by a rogues gallery of recycled CEOs, the company teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. I joke, but it was sad to witness the slow deterioration of a once rich book culture.
Amazon.com was killing our foot traffic. The economy, which hadn’t been great for years, went to shit with the housing crisis. Naturally now was the time to embrace full scale implosion, implementing quota based sales while burdening stores with greatly diminished payroll. Needless to say, hardline sales tactics alienated whatever customers remained.
The novelty of running a bookstore with no staff quickly wore off. When it became clear I could no longer offer security to longtime employees, I opted for mental health rather than clinging to the bitter end.
OTHER DOORS OPEN
In 2009, I left to start a web design business, which allowed me the flexibility to work from home and care for my son.
As my wife April returned from maternity leave, her bank was bought out—again! She ended up a casualty of that second merger. We went on to lose our house and much of our savings trying to stay afloat.
Despite sideways glances from family, we bet on ourselves during tough times. I’m proud to say we’re on the other side of that now, but it has been a long hard road.
April went back to school, earning undergraduate degrees in Economics and Technology & Information Management. She birthed our daughter between semesters, never missing a beat. Then she followed that act earning a Masters from the School of Information at Berkeley. Now she’s working as a senior technology consultant with a top firm. Kicking ass like she always has.
Our kids are school aged with the little one just starting kindergarten this year. Thankfully I am back to writing full-time, currently pursuing publication for my first novel Buried by the Sound.