Bio and Curriculum Vitae
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Eastern Time Zone
My journalistic and written work regularly reaches millions and has been published both nationally and internationally including appearing in The Guardian, BuzzFeed, and De Correspondent, among others. In 2017, Scribner published my nonfiction novel, the award winning A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City. The Star Tribune called it, maybe “the most inspiring book” you’ll read all year and it was excerpted in the Guardian. In 2017, I delivered an official TED Talk at TEDNYC that has reached more than 1.3 million people worldwide in a dozen languages. Previously, I worked as a contract employee and the Rust Belt correspondent for the Guardian Newspaper where I wrote longform feature stories about the post-industrial Midwest.
I’ve worked in the film industry, writing two feature-length dramas on contract including a collaboration with an Emmy Award-winning producer. I am formerly the theater critic for the Metrotimes, and my essays and profiles have appeared in books and collections in the United States and Europe, both trade and academic. In 2016, I was selected by Michael Pollan and the University of California, Berkley as an 11th hour Food and Justice Reporting Fellow, in 2017 as a Kresge Arts Fellow, and a 2019 a Kathryn Davis Fellow for Peace at Middlebury College in Vermont. I have worked as an adjunct writing professor at Oakland University and am professional member of PEN America.
I also have more than 10 years of experience in the digital advertising industry. My recent advertising and branding work has focused on helping startups and nascent brands scale and increase market-share and visibility. I've worked as a narrative consultant and messaging expert for brands such as the crowd-investing platform WaterWorksFund, as a consultant to the lead at Best Practices Institute, and helping to shape editorial and advertising messaging for the fashionable Detroit Is It. I've also contributed to messaging and direction to dozens of diverse businesses, such as the Museum of Northern Arizona, Schwab Industries, O'Bryan International Maritime Law, and BioLargo Water.
In addition to my work as a journalist, screenwriter, and copywriter, I am recognized internationally for building my house in Detroit with my own hands and as a speaker and writer with great sensitivity to current issues of race and class, and I have written in many different verticals from technology to sociology. I speak French conversationally and can communicate to a wide variety of people across social strata and cultures. I am also a certified diesel mechanic. I am located in the Eastern time zone and I live in Detroit with my dog, Gratiot.
Select Literary and Academic Publications—
Collin Harrison, Editor-in-Chief of Scribner Publishing, acquired at auction the rights to my memoir about purchasing an abandoned house in Detroit at the age of 23 and the racial and socioeconomic realities of the city and region. A $500 House: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City was published on April 11, 2017. The book received the Stuart and Vernice Gross award for literature and reviews include a glowing and starred piece from Kirkus and the Star Tribune calling it, maybe “the most inspiring book” you’ll read all year. 2017.
"Make Sure You’re Helping: Experts, Solidarity and Effective Partnering with Locals" was published in Can't Forget the Motor City: What Happens in Detroit Matters for the Urban World edited by professor Brian Doucet of Utrecht University and published in the United States and Europe by Policy Press. The volume includes work by prominent academics, writers, and thinkers on Detroit. 2017.
My essay “Poletown” was published in the Detroit Neighborhood Guidebook, Belt Publishing. 2017.
My essay “Like Stones Dropped in a Pond” was published in Detroit: An Archive of Experiences by Expodioum, Holland, in the Netherlands, Greece, and Portugal. 2010.
I am represented by Jenni Ferrari-Adler of Union Literary.
PEN America professional member in good standing.
Select Longform, Magazine, and Feature Stories—
As a former contract employee at The Guardian, I wrote feature stories on iniquity in the Midwest. Pieces included a look at how healthcare changes on the national level may impact people with developmental and cognitive abilities, civil disobedience in response to mass water shutoffs in Detroit, and hitchhiking the Rust Belt in search of the American man. 2017.
The Guardian published “I walked 170 Miles to the RNC to Talk to Trump Supporters. They Surprised Me,” which chronicled my journey on foot from my home in Detroit to Cleveland to speak to average folks about the election. The story produced more than a thousand comments, and multiple other news organizations wrote about my trip, notably the Huffington Post notably calling me “A Modern Day Woody Guthrie.” I was also interviewed from as far away as New Zealand. In addition, I wrote dispatches along the way for BELT Magazine. 2016.
Spirit Magazine published my cover-profile of Samantha White, founder of Shakespeare in Detroit. 2015.
BuzzFeed published my story "Why I bought a house in Detroit for $500." It received approximately 1.8 million views with about 80% of people reading its entirety. It spawned hundreds of positive comments and is the most popular longform story in the history of BuzzFeed. The Atlantic Magazine called it one of the best stories of the year, among other accolades. Other publicity included speaking engagements with NPR’s Tell Me More, mentions in the New York Times, and The Washington Post. 2014.
The Metrotimes published, among many other pieces, an extremely well regarded and influential cover profile of attorney Joumana Kayrouz. The local story was covered as far away as Alabama and was extensively cited in the Arab American community, the Arab Daily News saying it offered “rare insight.” 2014.
Corp! Magazine has published many of my stories, including influential pieces on sports subsidies and data security. 2013.
The Michigan Front Page published multiple cover feature profiles of prominent black locals including poet Jessica Care Moore and clothier to the stars Marc England. 2012.
Select Criticism, Translations, Newspaper Journalism, Film—
De Correspondent published, in translation, a feature story about my walk to Cleveland and the RNC. 2016.
Ulyces.Co has begun translation on many stories in my back catalogue including Why I Bought a House in Detroit for $500, and Behind the Billboard: Joumana Kayrouz. In addition, my essay “Like Stones Dropped in a Pond” has been translated into Greek, Portuguese, and Dutch.
Vers Beton, in the Netherlands, published a translated short feature co-written with Professor Brian Doucet entitled, Detroit is Meer Dan Ruiines. A short editorial with similar themes was published in The Guardian as well. 2016.
I was the theater critic for The Metrotimes, the largest alternative newsweekly in the US. Reviews include an influential piece on the Detroit premiere of White People, which was cited nationally, including in VOX;a local production of Angels in America; and a legendary Detroit improv theater. 2015-2016.
The Detroit Free Press has published freelance pieces, including the widely influential scoop “UM Might Tap Detroit as Living Classroom,” that covered a groundbreaking partnership between the University of Michigan and the city of Detroit. 2008.
I was an intern staff member of The Bakersfield Californian, in Bakersfield, California. I wrote many front-page stories and covered everything from a shootout at a hospital to a new ride at Disneyland. 2007.
I have written more than 40 pieces for The Michigan Daily, including a profile that won a Gold Circle, the highest award in collegiate journalism. Articles were often reprinted by wire services and specialty publications. 2004-2008.
I co-wrote two feature-length scripts on contract for Knagen Films, including Provoked with Emmy Award winning producer Charles Cirgenski. I am also credited with various other writing assignments and editorial positions on local films and international shorts. 2011-2013.
Select Digital Advertising—
I have written or overseen the writing for 40K plus website messaging, SEO optimisation, tagline and slogan generation, blog posts, and most every other facet of digital marketing, including for:
11th Hour Food and Justice Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Selected by Michael Pollan. 2016.
Republican National Convention Reporting Fellow, Belt magazine. 2016.
Kresge Literary Arts Fellow, a prestigious yearlong award that includes a $25,000 grant for personal artistic development in recognition of past work and future potential. 2017.
Kathryn W. Davis Fellowship for Peace at Middlebury College. 2019.
Speaking Engagements, Radio and Television—
I have delivered an official TED talk at TED NYC, that was released digitally on April 5, 2017. The speech has reached more than a million viewers in nearly a dozen languages. 2017.
I have given lectures and readings around the world, including lectures at the University of Rotterdam and The National Writers Series, appearances at the Little Rock Literary Festival and Harbor Springs Festival of the book, an international book tour, and other readings at dozens of cultural institutions and libraries across the US. Current.
I’ve appeared on nationally syndicated television in promotion of my work, including WGN in Chicago as well as a lengthy interview for Google, which was broadcast on their YouTube channel.
I’ve appeared on the radio numerous times for promotion of my work and commentary, most notably on NPR’s nationally-syndicated Tell Me More and the TED Radio Hour. I have also made multiple appearances on WDET’s Detroit today, on NPR stations in California and across the Midwest, as well as at select international venues in Canada, New Zealand, and others. Current.
I formerly managed the workshop, fleet, and a small team of technicians at the Detroit Bus Company. I chose this to gain management experience in a high-tech, high volume, and high intensity environment. 2018.
As an author and writer, I have in my employ and or work closely with agents, publicists, editors, assistants, show-bookers, venue-owners, and photographers, etc., all in different time zones. My professional life in regards to writing is akin to running a small business. 2014- current.
I’ve worked as a project manager and as a sole proprietor on small teams overseeing the writing of 40,000-plus word websites. Projects include digital messaging for The Museum of Northern Arizona, Levine and Sons Plumbing, Goodman & Scieszca and O’Bryan Maritime law firms. I’ve consistently met deadlines with small teams and have held complex and technical communications across time zones. 2012-2014.
I managed Le Petit Zinc French restaurant in Detroit after college where I oversaw a small team of chefs and service staff. 2010.
I worked as a project leader for OH Construction in Detroit during university. 2007-2009.
Teaching and Professorships—
I taught the 400 level journalism course, Freelance and Magazine Journalism, at Oakland University as an adjunct professor. Current.
As a volunteer, I teach English as a conversation partner and a civics class at Freedom House Detroit, which is a live-in facility for victims of war and violence seeking political asylum in the US. Current.
I taught English, life skills, and special education classes full-time at ACE Academy, which is a maximum-security prison for minors in Detroit/Highland Park. I also founded the ACE Academy Free Press, a newspaper written and produced by the incarcerated young men. 2011-2012.
I co-facilitated and taught a course on “White Racial Identity” at the University of Michigan on the topic of racism that was directed towards white students, for the Program on Intergroup Relations. 2008.
Attended Middlebury College’s internationally-regarded immersive summer French language program, 2018.
Graduated BGS with service distinction from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 2008.
Graduated the New England Literature Program, a seven-week intensive writing course in Sebago, Maine. 2006
Languages, Volunteer and other Experience of Note—
Native English speaker. Speak and write French at B level as defined by CERFL.
As a volunteer, facilitated writing and theater workshops in numerous Michigan prisons under the study of Thoreau Professor Buzz Alexander at the University of Michigan. 2005-2008.
Studied playwriting under Oyamo at the University of Michigan and co-founded ARTillary Theater Company, writing and performing in plays, most notably co-writing the produced full-length Sunday Morning, based on the Wallace Stevens poem of the same name. 2005-2008.
I hold US driver’s certifications in automobiles and motorcycles.
Certified in Michigan as a diesel engine mechanic.