Thursday, November 10, 2005

A More Detailed Bio

[I guess I'm not that serious a blogger because most of my posts are text that I originally typed for other purposes; but anyway, here's something "new."]

I was born in 1966 to Navy parents in Newport, Rhode Island, then grew up in Southern Cal. from age 2 through 11 (Long Beach, Torrance, and Rancho Palos Verdes). I'm the oldest of 10 kids. With a teenager on the near horizon and for other reasons, my parents moved to Bountiful, Utah, in 1977, which pretty much backfired as far as I was concerned. I experienced major culture shock, which I'm still not over, with Bountiful's off-putting mix of homogeneity and hickness, at least compared to So. Cal.

By mid-teenhood, I didn't believe or disbelieve Mormonism; rather, it was just background noise. My religion was Dungeons & Dragons and later the punk/new wave scene, with its attendant sex and drugs. I did a two-year rebellion from age 17 to 19, followed by a two-year mission to Melbourne, Australia (1986-88), which I found almost completely miserable for numerous reasons I won't go into now, but none of them related to lack of belief in the church. My account of doing a 180 and deciding to go on a mission is slated to be published in the next Irreantum literary journal issue (

After surviving the mission, I got engaged to a gal, but I learned that she'd slept with seven men while "waiting" for me on my mission, so we crashed and burned. I went to college at Emerson College in Boston, where I got a degree in professional writing from the Writing, Literature, and Publishing Department and studied with James Carroll, the novelist and Catholic writer. I met a gal from Idaho on the Boston subway (the "T") and married her in the temple in 1990, for what turned out to be a biblical seven-year duration. In 1992 we moved back to Utah so I could go to grad school in BYU's English department, where I eventually earned an M.A with an emphasis on creative writing. Overall I was glad I did that, but not for the reasons I expected going in.

I accidentally got a job as an editor at the Ensign midway through my grad program, and I did that for over six years. It had all the limitations and follies you would expect, and I eventually got quite tired of it, but I learned a lot and had fun on some reporting trips to places like Australia and Taiwan. Looking back, I miss the job security there. In 1994, I went to the doctor with a chronic cough, and she found a fist-sized tumor behind my breastbone that was eventually diagnosed as Hodgkin's lymphoma. I had a miraculous healing but went through chemo and radiation anyway, and now I'm 10 years clean.

As far as church activity and belief, I've never had any serious doubts since my initial conversion at age 19, when some strong-enough spiritual things happened to counterbalance any concerns about fishy history or science, and I'm often surprised to see people make assumptions and judgments based on such limited mortal perspective. For me, the only way to make any sense of the world is the old "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become" saw, which I cling to. But I'm not a lover of the church institution; rather, I tolerate it. I attend my meetings but often sleep or read outside material. I wear jeans, sandals, and a beard to church fairly often, and I'll always take the chance to skip. Right after the sacrament is passed, I take off my tie. I currently serve as assistant ward clerk, with the duty of counting the donations each week.

In 1998 I married a sweetie from Provo after a four-month courtship/engagement. The marriage is terrific, but I now find myself stuck in Utah County, and I just don't have the energy to try to get out. I adopted two kids in my previous marriage, and they take up a lot of time and money now, plus we have two kids of our own conception and another on the way in December. When I left the Ensign in 2000, I drifted into the multilevel-marketing nutritional supplement industry as a marketing writer/editor. I'm extremely skeptical about this industry, but I keep whoring out my skills to earn a wage. In my novel, I have a character who is totally into something called zongi juice, a magical elixir from Tonga that she uses Alma 32 to sell to others. I currently work in the great and spacious Neways building down in Springville with the ostentatious golden calf--I mean logo--atop the building. In addition, I teach a freshman composition night class every semester at UVSC, solely for the extra cash.

Working with others, I started Irreantum and edited it for five years, and a small LDS publisher is preparing a collection of interviews with Mormon authors that I originally did for Irreantum, about 25 interviews with everyone from Anita Stansfield to Neil LaBute. Working with others, I also started The Sugar Beet, a fake Mormon news outlet that started out as a website, became a printed and e-mailed newsletter, and is now being transformed into a book collection. In shopping around a Mormon missionary memoir two or three years ago, I found an agent, and she almost got me a deal for that (we made it to the tip-top committee at HarperSanFrancisco), but I just ended up with a contract to coauthor Mormonism For Dummies, which was really a lot of fun and netted me about $6,000. Right now I have two other book projects in various stages, in addition to the two aforementioned collections: an anthology of Mormon missionary experiences aimed at a national publisher (coedited with Holly Welker), and a novel about a contemporary Mormon woman's relationship entanglements.

To make time for all these things, I completely ignore several things, such as TV, sports, poetry, and politics. However, I like to watch movies, although I like only about one out of four I see. And I'm a passionate listener of music, mostly alternative rock. I read tons of magazines and usually two or three books at a time (right now I'm reading Dickens's David Copperfield in print and listening to the vampire story The Historian on audiobook). I do not read the scriptures on any regular basis or make it to the temple two blocks away much more than once or twice a year, but I carry a current recommend and manage to say a personal prayer every weekday while driving in my car, forcing myself to turn off the stereo as soon as I enter the freeway (no, I do not close my eyes or fold my arms while driving). I drink too much Coke but am grateful to be free of any more serious addictions or sins, though all my minor sins no doubt add up to more than I'd like to think.

No comments: