In the role of Macduff, slaying the bloody king of Scotland, American Players Theatre

After dabbling with political science/pre-law, I graduated with a music degree and then spent my early career as an actor, mostly appearing in the plays of Shakespeare and other classical dramatists.

Perhaps it was the annual solo backpacking trips I took every year — to the likes of Yellowstone, Yosemite, the Badlands, the River of No Return Wilderness — that gave me the impetus to retire from the stage and start writing about nature.

At the summit of Long’s Peak, the only “fourteener” in Rocky Mountain National Park

As much as I loved the vast mountains and desert lands of the west, however, the best part of every backpacking trip was was crossing the Mississippi River back into my home state of Illinois. As a writer, I’ve found myself most attracted to the remnant prairies, wetlands and woodlands of The Prairie State and have been exploring and writing about them for years.

Force of Nature: George Fell, Founder of the Natural Areas Movement is the biography of an extraordinary man whose efforts to protect natural lands in Illinois launched a movement to protect lands across the country and eventually throughout the world.

A Midewin Almanac chronicles my volunteer restoration efforts at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, the most ambitious tallgrass prairie restoration effort in the country.

A yellow-bellied sapsucker – among the many different kinds of birds that Sparrow tries to save

I’m currently working on a young adult novel, The Fall of a Sparrow. Sixteen-year-old Sparrow feels like an ugly duckling who grew into an ostrich. Desperate to be anyone other than herself, she follows in the footsteps of an eccentric photographer who transformed her own quirky looks into self-portraits of exquisite beauty. Only Sparrow’s not very good at it. Until she meets Indigo, a blue-haired changeling who gathers up building-killed birds in downtown Chicago. Finding Indigo as beautiful as the dead birds, Sparrow turns her camera on them both. This draws her deep into an alt community of art students, homeless people and Field Museum scientists who turn into birds to guide migrating birds safely through the city. Sparrow breaks the rules to fly herself with tragic consequences, through which she discovers herself as an artist and as a protector of the birds she’s grown to love.

At the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, I’m fortunate to be able to combine my passions for art and nature in helping to guide the Foundation’s Chicago region grantmaking strategy for artistic vitality and land conservation. (Any views expressed on this website are mine and not the Foundation’s.)