I’ve taken an unconventional path to the work I create. And an unconventional path means a different kind of biography. So dive in with me.
Let’s start at the beginning.
My mom and dad had a kid, me…then adopted another kid (older), and then another kid (younger). In a matter of 3 years, I went from being an only child to being a middle child. Fun. You can peep a story about that here:
This also marks a turning point for me.
I fell deeply in love with comic books. I’m dyslexic and I was struggling with reading, but comic books changed all of that.
As a young kid, I got into Hip-Hop. At 15, I wanted to be the next Puff Daddy. So I got a job to pay for studio time. I was dedicated! I skipped my senior prom to go to the studio:
In High School, I struggled because of my dyslexia.
I didn’t go to college because I was really tired of knowing I was smart, but not being able to prove it. I also left Hip-Hop behind, feeling like there just wasn’t a place for me in the art form anymore. Two things happened around this time that changed the trajectory of my life:
I became a flight attendant.
A friend of mine gave me a PBS special by Bill Moyers, “The Language of Life.” It was a series about poetry.
I’d never heard poetry like that before, and it completely changed my life.
From that point on, I knew what I wanted to do. I started writing poetry and performing. This worked well with being a flight attendant. It meant I could easily perform all over the country. I got involved in poetry slams and toured the country, sleeping on couches, serving peanuts, and slinging poems.
I started playing with the form.
I tried to tell stories in the poetry I wrote. A young director, Dan Solomon (RIP) saw my work, and asked if we could make a short movie. It would be the first time I started thinking about how to stretch the work I was doing into different mediums.
I did well in the world of Slam Poetry. Ranking 3rd in the Nation in 2000, appearing on Def Poetry Jam, and performing on CBS’s The Final Four Show.
At some point, poetry began to morph into monologues. Monologues became plays.
I fell in love with theatre and playwriting. From solo performances, to big ensemble plays that weaved poetry and dialogue.
Work took another turn.
I entered the Public Radio Talent Quest; a contest created by PRX and CPB to find new shows, ideas, and hosts for public radio. Aaaaaaannnnddd I won! (With two other people, but this is my story, not theirs.) Winning that contest launched my show, State of the Re:Union!
I never looked at myself as a journalist, but to make this show, I knew I’d need to surround myself with top-notch journalists to teach me and help implement my vision. So I hired some really amazing people who added to my ideas. We sought to tell the story of America, from the ground up. We did the damn thing. SOTRU kicked ass. Here are some of my favorite episodes:
Also around this time, two big things happened:
I started writing a novel called “Springfield,” a story about a magical neighborhood in the south.
I finally returned to my first love, comic books.
Since I was a kid, I wanted to write them, but to break into comics as a writer takes money; you’ve got to hire artists! I worked with two amazing ones to make these books; Pier Brito on Imperfect, and Amancay Nahuelpan on Planetfall.
SOTRU ended due to funding. I’m good at storytelling, at bringing a team together, and setting a vision. Fundraising…not so much. I didn’t want to let the show go. I loved what we were doing and the people I worked with, but I couldn’t go on barely getting by. The show, the staff, and the listeners deserved better, so with a heavy heart, I sunset the show. All good things…
While SOTRU was in its last season, I started moonlighting as host for the pilots of Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX.
Honestly, I thought, “No way this show is ever gonna get made, and no way they’ll want me as the host.” The pitch just sounded crazy. CIR was looking to make the first weekly, hour-long investigative news program. Everyone in the industry thought they were crazy; ‘you can’t put out deep-dive journalism weekly, it just isn’t done.’ And the second thought was, “I’m not an investigative journalist.” But somehow, we did it. And we are still doing it. Somewhere along the line, I became a journalist.
The comics I’d worked on set me up for something bigger.
My self-published comics caught the attention of DC Comics, and I became a member of the DC Comics Writer’s Workshop. The class was an opportunity to learn how to write comics with Scott Snyder, one of the all-time great comic book writers. It was an amazing experience that introduced me to my new family of creatives that has strengthened my work in every way.
Nightwing (DC Comics), Pencils and Inks: Siya Oum, Colorist: Cris Peters
The novel I started writing, Springfield, has been optioned by a TV Network. I can’t say much, except I’m really proud of the work the development team and I have done. Development is a long process with no guarantee for production, but I’m dreaming of seeing it on the small screen.