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.
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.
I’m currently working on a young adult novel about a high school senior who feels like an ugly duckling who grew up to be an even uglier ostrich. To escape herself, she decides to follow in the footsteps of Vivian Maier – an eccentric street photographer who transformed her own ugly duckling-turned-ostrich looks into self-portraits of exquisite beauty. Of course, it’s a lot harder than it looks to mimic someone else’s artistry. Until Vivian meets Indigo, a blue-haired waif who helps scavenge the millions of songbirds that die from crashing into Chicago’s downtown skyscrapers. Turning her camera on both Indigo and the tragic beauty of her birds, Vivian discovers a world of art students that turn into birds to help guide them safely through the city. Impatient to fly, herself, Vivian breaks the rules of this alt world with tragic consequences – out of which she discovers her true self and her true artistry in protecting 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.)