For conferences, universities and private groups I am available to speak on the subjects below. Occasionally I also offer classes/workshops on narrative nonfiction, essay writing, travel writing and freelance writing. I am also available to speak on any subject related to my book, The Geography of Madness


Previous Speaking Engagements:  

May 2, 2016, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Open Book Center: Official Launch of the Geography of Madness

May 3,2016, Winona, Minnesota: First Tuesday Laureate’s Writers Series.

May 4, 2016. Decorah, Iowa, Dragonfly Books: Reading from the Geography of Madness


Radio Interviews

Interview with Jefferson Public Radio’s “Jefferson Exchange”

Interview with Milwaukee Public Radio’s “Lake Effect”



Magic, Medicine and the Roots of Culture.

The word “culture” as we know it was introduced into English in 1871 by the British anthropologist E.B. Tylor. Today, no one knows quite what it is. In this speech, based on my own research into culture-bound syndromes. I make the case for a new definition of culture. Drawing on research from artificial intelligence, anthropology and linguistics, I will show how we create the worlds that, in turn, create us, and how the stories we believe influence ones we live. [This talk can be applied to culture generally as well as local/organizational culture.]

The Science of the Other

Why do we kill our neighbors? Why don’t we? Are human good or evil? Cruel or kind? What does science tell us about this? In this talk I look at the how we draw the line between “us” and “them,” and how this affects what we can do to them. Drawing on examples from Rwanda to Vietnam to the Spanish Civil War, I’ll look at our capacity for brutality, and show how the circle of humanity expands and shrinks, and what we can do to make our own circle as wide as possible.

Walden and Creativity in the Digital Age

As the writer Annie Dillard once observed, “The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives.” These days, most of us are spending a huge portion of our lives staring at screens. In this talk, I’ll address the economics and biology of attention, and what it means for us, and how it affects our creativity, our relationships and our well-being. I’ll also talk about strategies for managing the torrent of data that can us away.

The Geography of Greatness

When the New Yorker was founded in 1925 the editors announced that it was “not edited for the old lady in Dubuque.” This was yet another version of theme that has been with us since the late 19th century: The small town, the Midwest, these were places to leave. In this talk I address the history of this narrative, what its implications are, and discuss how it can change.

I’m also happy to speak on any of the stories and topics found on this page.

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