At the end of 2009 I was laid off from a job in which I was the company’s corporate marketing and media person. The company I worked for had facilities across the country, and I produced many of their newsletters, educational materials, and online content. The job was rewarding, but stressful. My workload grew exponentially during the last few months, and it felt as if I couldn’t complete anything. Interestingly, being laid off was probably the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me.
The country was at the height of the recession at that time and there weren’t any other jobs to be had, so I took the unemployment. But I also realized I ultimately couldn’t rely on a job to provide for me. Pay would never be commensurate with my effort or quality of work, nor would I ever truly feel satisfied producing for a company. So, I committed to pursuing one of my lifelong dreams which was to publish a book.
I have always written, in some form or another, but have never felt confident enough to fix my words in the tangible form of a book. And, the book I always wanted to make was actually a comic book rather than a novel. Since I had nothing to lose regarding my career, I set about studying sequential art and learning how to marry words with pictures. It was a challenge transforming my traditional art style into sequential art, not to mention learning the digital aspects of assembling a book (scanning, digital manipulation, lettering, page layout, and exporting the appropriate file for print).
About a year after committing to my goal, I had created a 100-page horror anthology of comic book stories. Did Gruesome Tales to Tickle Your Terror Bone wind up being the masterpiece I envisioned it? Ahh … I don’t know about that, but there is something there worth looking at. The book even sparked some interesting conversation and harsh, albeit constructive, criticism from the podcasters at Panda Manga.
For my second act I created a book that drew upon more of my strengths. MEGA ’99: Adventures of an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker is an illustrated memoir of the five and half month journey I took on the Appalachian Trail back in 1999. The book features text from the journals I kept, as well as 150+ pen illustrations that I created based on the photos I captured while thru-hiking the trail. This book was much better received, and I believe that to be a direct result of me writing what I knew best (my own experiences) and creating traditional pen illustrations rather than sequential art.
In spite of this better experience, I still struggled to nail down a clear vision for a successful book making career path. Since MEGA ’99 revolves around the Appalachian Trail which is, literally, on the opposite side of the country from Lake Tahoe (where I live), it has made it a challenge to sell it locally. The other drawback is that there are already so many other books about the Appalachian Trail available.
Based on my experiences making those first two books, attending events in an effort to sell the books, and feedback I’ve received over the years, I’ve re-evaluated the direction of my work.
Now, I focus on producing work related to Lake Tahoe. Since I live at Lake Tahoe and am fascinated with its history, culture, and geography, it just makes sense. I worked with fellow Tahoe writer and artist, Kim Wyatt (Bona Fide Books), in 2014 to create a 4-pack of mini-comics telling history-based stories of Lake Tahoe. In 2016, I created a coloring book titled Color the Tahoe Rim Trail, which is based on my 2014 thru-hike of the Tahoe Rim Trail. At the beginning of 2017, I launched a backcountry blog focused on recreating in the Lake Tahoe Region called Tahoe Trail Guide.
I will continue to develop other projects, but mostly I am focusing on creating books, publications, and other written materials about Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Contact me if you have a project in mind that you believe would be a good fit for me.