Book events and signings

Speaking gig update: We are currently lining up readings, presentations, and community conversations. (The list changes on a daily basis — and isn’t always completely up-to-date — so please check back for further details.) But these events are confirmed so far.

For more information or to request an interview or an event, please contact Lena Little at To request a lecture, please contact Tom Neilssen at

One of my favorite readings, cramming the super-cute Chop Suey Books in Richmond's Carytown, home of Won-Ton, the store cat. November 2014

One of my favorite readings, cramming the super-cute Chop Suey Books in Richmond’s Carytown, home of Won-Ton, the store cat. November 2014.

• East Tennessee State University, School of Public Health, Johnson City, Tenn., 6 p.m. Millenium Centre, Sept. 18.

• Sweet Briar College, Sweet Briar, Va., 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20.

• Clifton Forge Library, Masonic Theatre, Clifton Forge, Va., 7 p.m. Sept. 24.

• Virginia Western Community College, author talk and community call to action, 7 p.m. Sept. 26.

• Junior League International, conference, Sugar Land, Texas, Sept. 29.

• Ferrum College, Ferrum, Va. opioid symposium, 7 p.m. Oct. 1.


Me and Josh, journalism-ing together since 2001, back when he had to pick PopTart crumbs (and worse) out of my minivan when we drove to newspaper assignments together. Love him. Love his ethics, his eye, his work.

• Steamboat Springs Library, Steamboat Springs, Colorado, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8. 

• Boston Book Festival, Oct. 13, panel discussion about communities in distress.

• Wall Street Journal C-Suite Book Club, New York, N.Y. Oct. 15.

• Mentor Public Library, Mentor, Ohio, 6:30 p.m., Mentor High School’s Paradigm Building, Oct. 17.

Champaign County (Ohio) Library, 7 p.m. Oct. 18, Gloria Cinema, Urbana, Ohio.

University of Georgia Interdisciplinary Opioid Epidemic Symposium, 9 a.m. Oct. 20, University of Georgia, Miller Learning Center.

• South Boston Library, South Boston, Va., Oct. 22.

• Pulitzer Center/Virginia Center for the Book panel, “Democracy and the Informed Citizen,” with Pulitzer-Winning reporter Eric Eyre and Monica Hesse, and moderated by Radford University sociology professor Dr. Reginald Shareef, 7 p.m. Oct. 23.

• Floyd Center for the Arts, 3 p.m. Nov. 4 in Floyd, Va. [RESCHEDULED DUE TO WEATHER FROM SEPTEMBER.]

• 2018 Virginia Women’s Conference Keynote, Hotel Roanoke, Roanoke, Va. 9:15 a.m. Nov. 17.

Virginia Governor’s Housing Conference, 4 p.m. Nov. 14, keynote speaker, Arlington, Virginia.

• Miami Book Fair, in conversation with Maureen Cavanagh, the author of “If You Love Me: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Opioid Addiction,” Nov. 18., Miami, Fla.

Virginia Community College System, Hire Education Conference, 9 a.m. Dec. 7, Omni Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia.

• Chesterfield County Public Library, 7 p.m. Jan. 26, Chesterfield, Va.


From the Richmond Dispatch, Jan. 25, 1884

From an 1884 letter from a Richmond doctor to the Daily Dispatch, imploring citizens to understand that opioid addiction spares nobody. The post Civil War epidemic led forty years later to a medical community and criminal justice crackdown on doctor-led (or iatrogenic) addiction. For most of the last century, painkillers were reserved as end-of-life/cancer treatment or for post surgical care — until pharmacy-funded “pain as the fifth vital sign,” and OxyContin came along. Archives courtesy of the Library of Virginia.


Tess Henry, an honor roll student who loved poetry, playing sports, the essays of David Sedaris and rescue dogs, asked me to chronicle her story of becoming addicted to prescription opioid pills and, later, heroin in 2015. I dedicate this book to her, “our poet,” and to so many others whose efforts to access addiction treatment repeatedly were thwarted by indifference and rigid treatment ideologies. “I want to better my life so badly and become the person I was before drugs. I am going to die if I keep living the way I am,” she wrote in her journal in late 2016. She wanted most of all to regain custody of her young son.


To inquire about a lecture for 2018, please e-mail Tom Neilssen at Thank you.

The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in the common people.

—Walt Whitman (1819-1892)