In another life I would probably be a short-order cook—flipping pancakes, whipping up cheese grits, frying eggs, microwaving soy sausages, making drop-biscuits, sectioning oranges and grapefruits, cutting up fresh pineapple, brewing coffee, pouring OJ. On weekends when my two older daughters, Maggie and Eva, were in middle and high school that’s what I did just about every Saturday and Sunday morning when their cheerleading squad or swim team or Odyssey of the Mind friends spent the night. And it’s what I still do most mornings with our younger daughters, Lili and Claire, while Janet, my wife, makes their school lunches. We’re all there together in our big kitchen with our dog, Greer, eating and talking and carrying on, reading the newspaper, cracking jokes, making bad puns, sharing plans for the day. It’s one of the most joyful things in my life. Well, that and getting to be a professor at a liberal arts college in Virginia, and teaching Ashtanga yoga, and helping Janet lead the religious education program at our local Unitarian Universalist Church.
And, of course, writing stories—something I’ve been doing my whole life. I used to get scared a lot at night when I was little, and my big brother Wayne would only let me sleep in his bed if I could make up stories good enough to entertain him. In my book Down Sand Mountain I wrote about that and a lot of other things that happened when we were growing up. It seems that everything I’ve ever done somehow ends up in my books. My work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate working with abused and neglected children helped me write about the foster care system in What Comes After. Some trouble I got into as a rebellious teenager is making its way into my next book, Juvie. Who knows, maybe one of these days I’ll even try writing a cookbook: The Short-Order Dad.
Three things you probably didn’t know about me:
1. I once played basketball in southern Sudan, on the bank of the Nile River, with members of the Dinka tribe, the world’s tallest people.
2. I once saw a UFO at the pyramids in Egypt, and I’m not making that up.
3. I once ran the Pike’s Peak Marathon, which starts at seven thousand feet and climbs to fourteen thousand: fourteen miles up, fourteen miles down.