Writers are readers first. I’m fortunate, in that my mother read to me regularly. She also enrolled me in the Dr. Seuss book club and encouraged me to use my imagination from an early age. Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little by E.B. White, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margerie Williams, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis were the epics of my youth.
In the nature vs. nurture department, I have my paternal grandmother Dorothy Steele Burn, to thank for my writer’s gene. The presence of this gene was first recognized in fifth grade, thanks to the expert teaching of Mr. McKay at Washington Elementary in Wheaton. Later, at Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia, I had the good fortune to work with Dr. Fles and his favorite tome, The Norton Anthology. At Franklin & Marshall, Joe Voelker, Jody Gladding, and Ira Grushow saw something in me. Sometimes it was potential, other times it was adolescent pretense.
The College Reporter at F&M gave me my first taste of what it felt like to be recognized for my work. And recognized I was, by several members of the administration, in fact, all who felt the newspaper was dangerously off message. I was also routinely recognized by angry frat boys who banned me from their parties because I “lacked discretion” when reporting on their sordid behavior. I truly came to understand the power of journalism (and thus the responsibility it demands), when a grown man I was interviewing broke down and begged me not to write about him, or about the incident that led to his being fired from the college. Coming out of school in 1987, I opted to put the reporter’s notebook down. In its place, I picked up the rhetoric of the environmental movement and applied it in clever ways to secure funding for the cause.
While working on Capitol Hill in 1989, Dupree’s Diamond News published my poem, “Musings on George Bush’s Inauguration” next to a memorial piece on Abbey Hoffman. I released a self-published chapbook of poems, information age blues in 1992, and then re-released a second edition in 1993. In 1994, Salt Lake City’s alternative press, Private Eye Weekly ran my poem, “space” on their back page. The publisher compensated me with a free dinner for two at a local restaurant. I began to understand this is how poetry pays. In 1998, online literary magazine, Morpo Review, gambled and decided to run “Game Day” in their December issue, giving me my first short story credit.
In 1995 I turned to the ad business, and ad agencies in particular, for work. My ad career has spanned seven agencies in five states, plus I’ve done freelance work for a number of others. Thus far, I’ve helped shape messages for many of the nation’s leading consumer brands–Columbia Sportswear, American Crew, Baileys, Captain Morgan, United Airlines, Coors, HP, McDonald’s, NAPA Auto Parts, American Tourister, and Samsonite to name a few.
Driven to take part in the DIY publishing revolution, I started building Web sites by hand in 1999. In 2002, I launched and managed the first agency-owned Internet radio station, KTIG, for The Integer Group in Denver. In that same year, I helped launch an internal Wiki for Integer staff on the Coors business. After a pivotal trip to Austin and SXSW in 2003, I launched my first blog. A year later, I launched my first popular blog, which is now a leading trade rag for the media, marketing, and advertising industries.
During the spring of 2006, I was in the right place at the right time. As Content Director at BFG Communications in Hilton Head, I brought all my worlds together–creative writing, advertising, the Web, and live music–in an unprecedented way. All told, my team and I created hundreds of original articles, photo galleries (note: 24 meg download), podcasts, and video exclusives for the agency’s lifestyle clients.
In August of 2008, I returned to Portland–this time with Darby!–after a 13-year coast-to-coast boomerang. I started Bonehook in April 2009 and have been helping exceptional companies in a range of industries with their brand identities and content marketing ever since. Starting and sustaining a successful business is a serious challenge. It is also a joy to help companies I care about communicate their intrinsic value in the marketplace.
In March 2018, Darby, Lucy, and I moved to Austin, Texas for the sunshine, happy people, and economic opportunities. Bonehook re-established itself in the new market, and the agency now serves the needs of a handful of healthy and positive clients.