I grew up in Wheaton, Illinois, home of Wheaton College, an institution dedicated to “Christ and His Kingdom.” My father taught literature there and wrote a history of the college, A Heritage Remembered. My mother was an elementary school librarian, who besides her love of good books for children, encouraged creativity in her four children, I being the eldest. Looking back, I recognize the remarkable quietude, for the most part, of our life then. Reading was a principal activity only less important than devotions, with the additional attraction of being a window into other worlds. The summers of my high school years I worked as an “engineer” at Honey Rock Camp, the Northwoods Campus of Wheaton College, in Wisconsin, where I was free to get sweaty and dirty doing sometimes dangerous work in the woods almost like I was a character out of one of Jack London’s novels. I graduated from Wheaton College with a B.A. in 1971, but because I felt somehow it was my destiny to be a teacher like my father and didn’t want that, I did lots of other things over the next ten years or so, such as backpacking in British Columbia, picking apples in Okenagon, Washington, and working in a boat shop on the Oregon coast.
Eventually, in about 1980, my first wife and I settled in Southwest Virginia. We had a son, Teague, and I went to work with her father and brother building houses. On the side, I reviewed books for The Roanoke Times, and wrote a column on stockcar racing called “Inside Racing” for The News Messenger. From this last experience I wrote my first (and as yet unpublished) novel, The Favorite. In 1983, I entered graduate school at Virginia Tech, writing my thesis on D.H. Lawrence, and reading a paper from that thesis at a Lawrence conference in Montpelier, France. In 1985, following completion of my graduate degree, I was hired by the English Department as an Instructor—becoming a teacher like my father after all and happy about it, too. On the other hand, my marriage gradually broke down, the worse of it being the break I felt in the relationship with Teague and for therapy through the divorce I plunged myself into clay sculpting and wood carving. Through a mutual friend I met Ann Shawhan, who lifted my spirits with gifts of banana bread and cassette tapes of her favorite music and in 1990 we married, and my life transformed: we bought a little house, I became her daughter Rose’s stepdad, then later the happy father of our second daughter Haley, and we did our best to keep our cocker spaniel, Milo, from jumping the fence and seeking his own kind of experiences. In 1991, after months of volunteering my time at the business, I was appointed the university’s first Recycling Coordinator, which was a long jump from teaching English, but a mission for me. I had by that time also taken up figurative sculpture and secured over time significant public commissions; additionally, I had a wonderful time being the designated storyteller for children at the Blacksburg New School, and from that experience eventually recorded three CD’s worth of original stories.
I retired from Virginia Tech in 2009, celebrating the occasion with a hike up to Dragon’s Tooth and coming back down exuberant about sculpture. Gradually, and with a purpose deepened from my friendship with Nannie Hairston, initiated from the Charles Schaeffer sculpture project for Schaeffer Church in Christiansburg, I at last turned my attention to the writing of what has become A Partial Sun.