My life so far

Way back when

  • I grew up in Alaska, where I spent most of my time reading, writing and drawing.  
  • When it was sunny I’d go outside and draw the trees and mountains.  
  • When it was raining or the ground was covered with six feet of snow, I’d go inside where it was warm and write stories, draw comics, paint pictures, and more of that sort of thing.

Early years:

  • Read science fiction and fantasy novels and short stories, mysteries and crime and suspense stories, and started writing my own.
  • Discovered comic books, fell in love with them, and started writing and drawing my own.
  • Moved to Seattle with my parents when I was 16.
  • Went to Lincoln High School for a year, then transferred to Ballard. Met some nice folks. Took a drama class from Earl Kelly, which changed my life. Got support for my writing from a wonderful teacher, Frances Ericksen, and others, and won some writing awards.

1980s:

  • Studied drama and acting with Earl Kelly and others. Did some acting. Played some fun roles on stage.
  • Began painting in acrylics
  • Studied screenwriting and writing for the stage.
  • Wrote my first stageplay, The Ghost and Ms. Demure
  • Produced The Ghost and Ms. Demure at the New City Theater
  • Got some articles and poems and short stories published.
  • Started doing book covers and magazine illustrations professionally, and making my living as an artist. Clients included Stanford University, the University of Washington, and Amaze Inc.
  • Wrote and drew a line of independent comic books and graphic novels, which were published and distributed nationally
  • Started working on a graphic novel called Xeros.
  • Began teaching art classes through the University of Washington’s ASUW Experimental College, Antioch University’s Heritage Institute and other schools

1990s:

  • Published a collection of short stories, The Hungry Time, which was nationally distributed, internationally reviewed, and featured on Alaska Public Radio
  • Rediscovered acrylics and got more seriously into painting. Studied with a truly amazing artist, Robin Walker, and others.
  • Published a serialized version of my graphic novel Xeros
  • Started a literary magazine called Fever, which was tnationally distributed
  • Wrote and directed several stageplays for the Seattle Fringe Festival. Learned to direct, and directed two of them.
  • Started working on my first screenplay, an adaptation of my graphic novel Xeros
  • Studied improvisational acting with a wonderful instructor, Roberta Maguire, and others
  • Created and published a line of computer generated comic books, Cyber Reality Comix, which I created using Photoshop, and which were picked up and reprinted by Egmont (Europe’s largest comics publisher at the time) in Italy. (Here in the U.S. they were read by a few thousand people… in Europe, the comics they appeared in had a circulation in the millons).
  • Kept on teaching art classes through the Experimental College.
  • Started teaching acting classes and writing classes through the Experimental College
  • Started teaching photoshop classes through the Experimental College

This century:

2013:

  • Still doing it!  Making movies. Painting. Drawing. Writing.  Teaching lots of classes.
  • Taking walks around green lake with my best friends and arch enemies.
  • Life is good.

More details

I was born in Alaska, in a wilderness area on the southern coast. My dad was in the military during World War Two, stationed in the South Pacific. When the war ended, he went home to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Then he and my mom made the decision to fly up to Alaska to become homesteaders. They set out with a very few possessions for the far north.

They had a fantastic pioneer spirit. I’m amazed to this day at what they did, and accomplished. But they had no idea what they were doing, or getting themselves into. They flew up in a small plane that landed on a beach of the Cook Inlet, on the Kenai Peninsula, loaded their things off the plane onto the sand — then scrambled to save their possessions (and the plane) as the tide came in. They saved what they could of their possessions, found their way up a cliff to the top and staked their claim to some land they found up there, then built a house and tried to figure out how to survive. There were no roads or telephones or power lines in the area at the time. They were on their own.

They tried farming, but that didn’t work. (The season was too short for crops to grow.) They ended up starting a tiny general store, which was reasonably successful, then setting up a commercial fishing site, then starting a salmon cannery, using century-old equipment. They had six kids. I was the youngest.

I lived in Alaska for my first sixteen years, growing up, going to school, helping out on the beach site, picking salmon out of the nets and working at the cannery during the summers. I loved the wilderness, though unlike some of my siblings*, I spent more time indoors.  I grew up reading writers like Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg and Ursula Leguin (then later, James Thurber, Shirley Jackson, and Dashiell Hammett). When I was ten or eleven, I used to walk a mile through the woods to a tiny general store that had a book trade, where other homesteaders in the area brought used books when they were finished reading them. I’d swipe my mother’s gothic novels and my dad’s Louis L’Amore westerns, to trade for crime and mystery and science fiction stories. When I wasn’t reading, I was usually writing or drawing something. I also loved comic books, and started collecting them, then drawing and writing my own, when I was young. I started writing, I think, when I was in grade school, and never stopped.

My family lived in Alaska till my sophomore year of high school. Then we (my parents, my brother Frank, and I) moved to Seattle, partly because my parents were hoping to find better schools. The first high school I attended in the Seattle area was Lincoln, where I had a hard time connecting with other people, partly because of the shift from living in a wilderness area to what felt like a huge city.  I spent a  year at Lincoln, then transferred to Ballard High.

Transferring to Ballard was a good move.  It was just a better school all around.  There were some genuinely amazing teachers at Ballard in those days, like Earl Kelly, the drama instructor, and Frances Erickson, who taught English literature, and valued and encouraged my writing. They had high standards, higher than some colleges. It was good, and challenging, to work with them, and had a major influence on my life.

After graduating from Ballard, I spent a couple of years trying to figure out ways to make a living as an artist and writer, then went off to college, studied things totally unrelated to what I loved doing, graduated, then went right back to writing, and drawing, and painting.

I spent some time doing more or less random things to pay the rent, then finally began making a good living in the arts in the mid-1980s. I drew portraits down at the Pike Place Market (I was one of those outdoor portrait artists), did some book and magazine illustration, wrote and published some articles, then started teaching, first non-credit classes through the ASUW Experimental College, then accredited courses through Antioch University’s Heritage Institute and other schools. I love teaching non-credit classes because the students are so totally committed and interested in being there. (They’re there for the love of learning, of creativity, of trying something new, not for a degree or diploma). I also teach team-building classes now and then for Microsoft and other corporations.

I’m still living in Seattle (or rather, I’m back here again after living elsewhere for a while), and have come to love it here. I still feel a connection with Alaska. I think for people who grew up there, and loved it, it’ll always be their home on some level. But Seattle’s good too. I’m still spending my time writing and drawing and teaching and making movies. Life goes on.

* A family claim to fame is that my brother Dean once won the Ititarod.