The ADS hosted New York Times best-selling author, humorist, and radio show host, Michael Perry as guest speaker at our 2015 Walden West Fest on October 10th. He did not disappoint! Watch for updates in your ADS Newsletter and this website for announcements regarding next year’s guest.
Perry’s bestselling memoirs include Population 485, Truck: A Love Story, and Visiting Tom. Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then wound up writing by happy accident. He lives with his wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service. He hosts the nationally-syndicated “Tent Show Radio,” performs widely as a humorist, and tours with his band the Long Beds (currently recording their third album for Amble Down Records). He has recorded three live humor albums including Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues, is currently finishing his first young adult novel, and can be found online at www.sneezingcow.com.
Perry’s essays and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Backpacker, Outside, Runner’s World, Salon.com, and he is a contributing editor to Men’s Health magazine. His writing assignments have taken him to the top of Mt. Rainier with Iraq War veterans, into the same room as the frozen head of Ted Williams, across the United States with truckers and country music singers, and—once—buck naked into a spray-tan booth.
In the essay collection Off Main Street, Perry wrote of how his nursing education prepared him to become a writer by training him in human assessment, and he credits singer-songwriters like Steve Earle and John Prine with helping him understand that art need not wear fancy clothes. Above all, he gives credit to his parents, of whom he says, “Anything good is because of them, everything else is simply not their fault.” His mother taught him to read and filled the house with books; his father taught him how to clean calf pens, of which Perry has written, “a childhood spent slinging manure – the metaphorical basis for a writing career.”
Perry has recently been involved in several musical collaborations, including as lyricist for Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer, as co-writer (with Bon Iver frontman Justin Vernon) of the liner notes for the John Prine tribute album “Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows,” and author of the liner notes for the Vernon-produced Blind Boys of Alabama album “I’ll Find A Way.” Perry also collaborated with Vernon and Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne on a project that began when Vernon approached Perry and said, “Say, you’re a nurse…” The results were bloody, but then that was the point.
Of all his experiences, Perry says the single most meaningful thing he has ever done is serving 12 years beside his neighbors on the New Auburn Area Fire Department.
If I had to sum up my ‘career’ in one word, it would be gratitude. I get to write and tell stories all around the country, then come home to be with my family and hang out at the local feed mill complaining about the price of feeder hogs. It’s a good life and I’m lucky to have it.