July 20, 2021
If you want to create more interesting work, you should learn more interesting things, go to more interesting places, and meet more interesting people. So I’ve traveled extensively in service of my writing, and had the great fortune to learn a little from a whole lot of fascinating people.
I started writing as a child, by flashlight after bedtime on paper I’d stolen from my father’s desk. I went pro during college, writing for Action Pursuit Games—the paintball industry’s premier publication. I covered stories for them (and under pen names for all of their competitors) across six countries in between semesters at Westminster College, and later, during my Master’s program at Dartmouth.
When a friend pitched me an impossibly exotic adventure across Asia and Europe on the Trans Mongolian and Trans Siberian railroads, I moved out of my apartment to afford it and flew to join him. While I filed articles for websites and newspapers throughout that working trip, it also served as something of a three month bachelor party—from Beijing to Irkutsk, to Moscow, to Warsaw, with many stops in between and more along the way to my ultimate arrival, three months later, in Munich. After two years of subsequent research into the history of the places we’d been, I turned the tale of that adventure into my third book, “Following Josh.”
While my body bears the scars from misadventure across twenty four countries and forty eight states, on the balance, I’d do most of it again.
Just not Belarus.
Unable to travel as much since the arrival of our children, I’ve turned my writing toward essays and my forthcoming novel, “Hash 207.” That story is set in contemporary Portland, as the characters desperately try to hang onto their apartments and ways of life in a rapidly evolving city. I had the awesome opportunity to work on that manuscript with developmental editor Alan Rinzler, who has edited for Hunter S. Thompson and many of my other favorite authors. The experience was humbling, in the way that personal growth often strips your vanity and old comforts so you may become something better. “Hash 207” is a far better book for his guidance, as am I, as a writer.
While searching for an agent for “Hash 207,” I’m already at work on my next book: “I Wanted a Cactus.” It’s the story of my reluctant journey from up-and-coming professional with the world at my feet, to suburban dad with a mound of other people’s laundry to do…a hard 180 that’s once again stripped me of my vanity and forced me to become a better (or at least different) person. Perhaps someone out there can relate?
Through my change from traveling writer to firmly-rooted suburban dad, I’m fortunate to pursue another passion (and source of inspiration)—clinical behavioral therapy, through UNE’s Master of Social Work program. If I can’t travel—and I can’t travel with three young children, not as I need to for that old life—I can follow my lifelong interest in helping people learn coping strategies to manage their mental health concerns and build resiliency. I am particularly interested in addressing stigma as a barrier to mental healthcare access, and plan to write extensively about mental healthcare access and treatment just as soon as I know enough that my writing might be useful.
Curiosity is the golden thread woven through my writing, my studies, and the expansion of my career—curiosity about the story I’m researching, the people I meet, and the things that interest me. Whether taking a first step, or asking the first question, you never know quite where the story will take you…but if you show up, follow your heart, and trust your journey, you’ll wind up somewhere great.
- Dave Norman: Writer and Editor