Year of the Returning Cicada Names Brood X, the last time they appeared in hordes was in 2004. In a few months these monstrous looking bugs will burrow out of their 17-year hiatus and attach themselves to Everything. They will be everywhere, leaving exoskeletons and nesting in trees. If you miss seeing them—don’t worry—you will hear them as the... Continue Reading →

The “Foreignness” of Cloud of Witnesses

(Adapted from a talk I gave at the 2019 Illinois Reading Council Conference for teachers and librarians.) After writing and publishing my middle-grade novel, Cloud of Witnesses (Golden Alley Press), I discovered that it is but one of a handful of books currently being published that represents rural life. Most books coming out today for youth is... Continue Reading →

Hillbilly Elegy

a review I sort of hate it when movies, books, media reduce complex issues down into easily digested bites. That’s the trouble with Hillbilly Elegy, the movie now playing on Netflix: distilled into the Hatfield and McCoys. In fact that piece of mountain myth is referenced in the first 15 minutes of the film. My... Continue Reading →

Happy New Year, Nowruz

This past weekend was Nowruz, the New Year according to the lunar calendar that Iran follows. In my book, Cloud of Witnesses, Hassan explains the idea of Nowruz to Roland who likens it to spring cleaning, a time to clear away the old and prepare for the new. “According to the Muslim calendar this is... Continue Reading →

Record Everything

So here I am for twenty minutes—the amount of time I can concentrate these days. I spend most of my time being distracted, touching my face, trying not to touch my face, or else washing my hands. A lot of time is wasted on mortality. Mine and the people I love. Charting the course of... Continue Reading →

Little Women

Little Women I recently told a group I was having a potluck with that I was going to see Little Women. One of the guys said I love that movie. Now, for a couple of reasons, I knew he was confused. Brien is the kind of guy that watches the Bears and roots for the... Continue Reading →

Trying Times in Iran

We are again hearing chants of "Death to America." History repeating--though the circumstances are different this time around. My book, Cloud of Witnesses, portrays the growing relationship between two outsiders: Roland the hillbilly and Hassan the foreign kid, both new to Athens Middle School. When I began writing this book (years ago, I must confess)... Continue Reading →

Children’s Book Title Suddenly Relevant

There has been an uptick of interest in southeast Ohio because of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow’s viral speech. In his acceptance speech he mentioned his hometown and the poverty affecting that part of Ohio, where, as he mentioned, students often go to bed hungry. Cloud of Witnesses recently released by Golden Alley Press is... Continue Reading →

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑