From a very, very, young age, I was always told that I was different. Not in a bad way, mind you, but in a way that my family always explained as a “difference-ability,” not a “disability.” When I was in kindergarten, I wrote my first book at the age of 5, an alphabet book titled “Dizzy the A,” about the adventures of a goofy letter “A” named “Dizzy,” traveling around the world with all the other letters of the English alphabet visiting landmarks whose names began with the corresponding letter. I wrote this book for my classmates in my kindergarten class as a way for them to better understand basic phonics and grammar, which my teacher greatly appreciated. From that point on, my interest in art waxed and waned, for I pursued various interests throughout my chil hood, from science and history, to mathematics and literature, but, all the while I kept writ-ing, simply because it was something that allowed me an outlet for my own mental health issues rel ted to autism. I also liked to draw pictures to help me cope with the psychological issues associated with autism, usually drawing pictures of animals, plants, or the characters from the short stories I’d write.
Throughout elementary and middle school, I wrote, drew and continued to study the things that
interested me, and when I reached high school, I continued along this path, until I found a new subject to write about: speculative fiction and fantasy. In high school, I was always the “geek,” someone who loved computers, video games and got some of the best grades in the class. Three of my favorite science fiction and fantasy stories that I watched or played as a game dur-ing this period of my life were “Star Wars,” “Halo,” and the Japanese graphic novel series “Death Note.” George Lucas, Bungie Game Studios and Tsugumi Obha and Takeshi Obata’s styles of storytelling had a heavy influence on my art and writing style during this period, and it was in my senior year of high school, at the age of 17, that I first began writing science fiction, fantasy and horror stories. On Halloween, 2006, I wrote a short, dystopian horror story about a man from Russia who had a dream of restoring a successor state to the old USSR, and the story was so convincing and vivid, according to my English teacher, that he, a man named Greg MacAvoy, recognized my innate talent as an artist, and encouraged me to continue pursuing my creative writing, while also developing my academic writing skills, which I would later need in college.
Unfortunately, that year, my senior year of high school at Pine Bush High School in the town of
Crawford, New York, was not the easiest for me socially or emotionally. I had just transferred to Pine Bush from the Summit Residential School in Nyack, New York, where I had spent the previous three years of high school as a day student, and the adjustment period from leaving one high school, where I had established friendships, and attending a new one, where nobody knew my name, was very, very difficult. In that year, I became so depressed that I was hospitalized twice due to suicidal ideation, where I met several doctors and psychiatrists that worked with me to help me learn how to cope. It was while I was in the hospital recovering that I realized that I had a talent, one that not many writers and artists possess, and my counselors encouraged me to continue writing these stories as a way of coping with my own mental health struggles and encouraged me to pursue writing as a potential career option. I didn’t recover from depression by simply “being happy.” I recovered by creating a life for myself in which it is very difficult for me to be unhappy, with understanding support systems and medical professionals that helped me along the way, and so, for me, writing and drawing were the perfect outlets for coping with my depression. Despite all of my struggles that year, I still graduated with honors that year, in the class of 2007.
In college, I sought to perfect my craft as much as possible, and from 2008-2013, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and wrote, as well as drew hundreds of illustrations from the stories and rough drafts that I was writing. By the time I had graduated college at the age of 23, I had al-ready written more than 200 manuscripts, including more than 80 full-length stories, and had drawn hundreds of illustrations and character concept sketches. On Valentine’s Day, 2014, how-ever, while sitting in the master bedroom of a beach house at the Jersey Shore, I had the idea for my current project, the “Sojourn: What Dreams Await” saga, along with all of the concept sketches I had already drawn for this project. Now, at the age of 33, eight years later, I have written and published 39 “Sojourn” books and one completed screenplay, as well as drawn dozens of sketches and illustrations from the “Sojourn” science fiction universe. In keeping with my other lifelong interests as well, I have also taken up nature photography, and have a portfolio of photographs posted on my Instagram account, and I am now looking to turn “Sojourn” into the next great Hollywood science fiction franchise, like George Lucas did with “Star Wars” or Stan Lee did with Marvel Comics.
At the age of 33, I have been a writer for my entire life, and I also enjoy doing my own illustrations, taking nature photography, and outdoor activities, such as fishing, hiking, camping, and having a good time outdoors with good friends, but the main purpose of my endeavors as a writer is not money or the desire to make a living, it is the desire to inspire people, specifically others like me with autism and other mental health issues, to show them that anything is possible if they set their mind to it. A “disability” is no barrier to achieving a professional goal, so long as a person puts in the necessary time and effort to achieve it. I hope that, through my writ-ing and my artwork, that other people with autism and other disabilities may take inspiration from me, and unapologetically follow their dreams, without a single care in the world about what the rest of society thinks of them. Writing is my passion, it is something that I feel I must do in order to live at this point, and I write and create for the sheer joy of producing original work and watching it go into the world, like a ship leaving port into an uncertain, often stormy sea. The books, as well as everything I have ever produced, have always been a coping mechanism for the storminess in my own life, and, if my work can be a beacon of light in at least one other person’s darkness, I feel that my career as a writer will have been worth it in the end.