For Those Who Make the Stories


Listen …

Can you hear it?

Probably not. But it’s happening. Right now, all over the world, there are people making stories. They have “other jobs,” many of them – moms and dads, teachers and salesmen, and plenty of other obligations which occupy their day. But, for some inexplicable, beautiful reason, the beauty of a story untold has whispered to them, catching them in its thrall, and they’re up late, or up early, or both, following the golden thread of the narrative wherever it takes them.

They’re making stories. For us. For me!

I can think of a friend in the mid-South, wrestling a story of physics and God into concrete form. Another in western Canada, with picture books in his brain, another on the tip of Washington fighting for his time to write against a host of other obligations. Another in a house overlooking the Erie Canal in western New York. Another in a stone house in Pennsylvania, or a little cabin in the mountains. And on, and on, and on…


There are a lot of answers. Some of them sound weird, honestly. They make stories because they believe in the power of truth, beauty, and goodness, to captivate us. They make stories because they were called awake at night with a haunting image in their mind, or a phrase they can’t shake, but have to record, and it leads them to another phrase, and soon, a story is birthed.

Frankly, they make stories because they can’t imagine a life where they don’t make stories.

And here’s the point:

It’s a great comfort to me in this world of uncertainty, often fraught with chaos and disorder that all over the world, people are working to make stories, to wrestle the chaos into order, fight back their own personal voices and demons of uncertainty and vulnerability, and bring their stories into the world, so that one day, I might enjoy them.

For us. For me!

What a relief that there are stories being birthed, nurtured, and loved, and soon they’ll come to me, to my family, to enjoy.

So to those who make the stories, or to those who are thinking about making a story:

Courage, dear heart. Keep at it. We love you. You’re beautiful and your work matters. And we’re waiting to see what you can make.


Driving East

IMG_1522I’ve been fortunate the past ten years or so since I started teaching in Bloomfield, New York, my morning commute takes me essentially due east. So, for the first few months of the year and the last few months – those which bookend all those jet-black, western New York mornings after daylight savings time – I’m driving into the sunrise. While some days the road glare gets a bit hard to face, most days driving east into the sunrise provides me with the most breathtaking views, and a steady stream of daily encouragement, more than I’d have anticipated a commute could provide.

No matter what the stresses of the morning, how fraught with anxiety or frustration, or the highs and lows of the night before, I pull out onto Route 20 and point my car east, toward the sunrise, and everything changes. As the calendar has transformed the late summer into the heart of fall this past month, I’ve been witness to a myriad of wondrous sights. Some days the sun dances on tip-toes over the tops of the trees at the horizon line. Others, the distant Bristol hills are shrouded in a gauzy haze. On cloudy mornings, the pink-orange sunglow peeks abashed through a white bank of clouds. On foggy days, the mist floats wispy and tender up out of the roadside hollows. As I whizz past the corn fields, the sunrise illumines the stalks like rows and rows of yellow candles.

And it’s all lovely, so lovely, every day different. And I’m reminded, again, and again, that no matter how bleak or dark the night has been, the sun rises, and there’s beauty to behold. Watching the sunrise has the necessary effect of bypassing my conscious mind, which would often pile claim upon claim in support of the premise that disorder and brokenness are all there are. But as my eyes take in the beauty before me, I forget all of that.

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Darts Into the Darkness

Up here in the frozen North, winter takes its toll on even the hardiest souls.

And here, in the middle of January, a week or so beyond Christmastide, it’s taking its toll on this hardy soul.

As much as I pay lip service to loving winter – the crust of snow over the backyard, the frosty mornings without and the toasty fires  within – there’s a large part of winter which just chips away at my soul like, well, like frostbite. You know, creeping up on fingers and toes until – yikes! It’s Donner Party time. So sleepy… Etc.

(The other day, I looked at my phone, and was told that sunrise was around 7:30 a.m. and sunset was around 4:30 p.m. That’s nine hours of daylight, by my count. And the remaining hours – I can’t even bring myself to say how many – that’s darkness!)


It’s enough to make a guy start quoting Johnny Cash lyrics, isn’t it? 

Because of this, or perhaps because of just the general nature of living, there are days, psychologically, where the interior can feel a lot like the exterior. The thought of bringing beauty into the world – writing a story, sketching a new idea for a painting or an illustration, even making a beautiful meal for friends or family – seems like an insurmountable amount of work.

Bringing beauty into the world. It’s an idea that on days like these, when the darkness on the news brings a heightened awareness of the encroachment of the darkness into seemingly every corner of the world, seems like more of an idea than an actual endeavor, a task which should be completed.

But it matters. Oh, how it matters.

Making things matters. Bringing beauty into the world matters.

Because every act of love, every act of creation, is shooting a dart into the darkness. And when we make art in all its forms – a poem, a painting, a comic, a novel, a meal, a scarf, a mug – we once again have a chance to fire a razor-sharp pointed weapon against the darkness. Because beauty is love. And love is power.

It’s the thing that Meg Murry realizes when she’s face to face with It on a desperate mission to rescue her father in A Wrinkle in Time. Love.

“That was what she had that It did not have. She had Mrs. Whatsit’s love, and her father’s, and mother’s, and the real Charles Wallace’s love, and the twins’, and Aunt Beast’s. And she had her love for them. But how could she use it? What was she meant to do?”

When we make something beautiful, truthful, and good, we incarnate the Truth and wield it like a weapon against the darkness. Bit by bit. Dart by dart.

So fire away.

Available Now – Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake

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It was about this time of year, the whirlwind pre-Christmas season, more than a few years ago, when I wrote my first children’s book. I was a senior in college, and for the final assignment of our Children’s Literature class, my wife Danielle and I collaborated on a 32-page picture book. I remember two things about that project, other than our frenetic push to turn the project in on time and the what-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into feeling that met us repeatedly throughout the final weeks of the project as we learned about art design, picture book illustration, and children’s book publishing in one fell swoop (and these were the days of the internet’s infancy, mind you):

  1. Writing that story was a revelatory experience. The words came pouring out of me faster than I could put them down. The characters – a snowman named Arthur, his turtle Eli, and his new friend Caitlin – seemed already fully-formed in my head, waiting for me to meet them. Of course, the crafting and revising took lots of time and work, but the whole process was so glorious, so, well, fun, I just knew it wouldn’t be the last time I’d write for children.
  2. I was sure this manuscript would get published. (I chalk that up to a combination of naivete and ignorance. )

Well, the publication didn’t happen with that story. Shocker.

Though a few years have gone by since that snowman story, in so many ways, I still feel like that college kid, charged with adrenaline and passion at bringing a new story into the world. I’m proud to announce the publication of Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake, a delightful little story about a couple of friends and a grand adventure. It’s a beautifully-illustrated ebook that I think will make the perfect story to gather around this Christmas season, and beyond. (I’ll probably say more in the coming days about how much the artwork of the talented Jannia Mattia makes this story come alive, but for now, I’ll just say it’s a treat, and I’m sure you’ll love it!)

I love telling stories. And, even better, I love sending those stories out into the world to find a home among people who can make them a part of their own stories in new, exciting ways.

Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake is one of those stories. It’s my first published book, but I can promise you, it won’t be the last.

I’d love for you to join me and gather around this story. You can find it at Amazon, and it will be on your e-reader, iPad, or other device quicker than you can say, “Kris Kringle Kraves Krispy Kremes.”


Coming Soon – Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake!

I’m proud to announce that my first book for young readers will be released December 18, 2017! Horace and Oscar Visit the Lake is two stuffed friends who decide to leave the comfort of the nursery where they live and venture out on a grand adventure. With some warm and beautiful illustrations by the amazingly-talented Janna Mattia, I think it will be the perfect read-aloud this holiday season. Check out the trailer below. And tell your friends!

The Moments and the Miles

As milestone birthdays go, turning 38 scarcely qualifies. And yet, as I found myself approaching that signpost a few weeks ago, I began to find more significance than I had anticipated. Turning 38 means two decades since the spring I graduated high school, and the fall I started college. I was 18 all those years ago, when Chumbawumba and Sugar Ray were on the radio, boy bands were still (mercifully) a few years off, and I looked at the future much like the “fresh, green breast of the new world,” which F. Scott Fitzgerald called it.

Now, with the eyes of a not-so-young man, I look upon the intervening years with more than a measure of perspective. It seems so simple in retrospect to pick out the the paths which I have hewn through the dense vegetation of the years, to measure that distance in miles and discern meaning in the big picture.

But what about the moments I spent in the midst of that forest, hacking my way through all that underbrush, machete in hand, sweat beading my forehead? Nothing seemed simple then. How can one find perspective when surrounded by the thick vegetation which comprises the daily stuff of life? I ponder this question, not just as a man looking back at where he has been, but as one looking around, looking forward, at the path ahead.

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