Book events and signings

Speaking gig update: The paperback version of Dopesick, with additional updates and new material, publishes on Aug. 6, 2019. Here’s a list of events I’ll be doing for it.  (The list changes on a daily basis — and isn’t always completely up-to-date — so please check back for further details.) My Audible Original podcast, “Dopesick: Finding Tess,” will be available for download on Oct. 3.

For more information or to request an interview or a reading, 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.

• Brooklyn Public Library with Greenlight Bookstore, Williamsburg BPL Leonard branch, 6:30 p.m. Aug. 6, Brooklyn, N.C.

Lecture and Discussion: Contois Auditorium, City Hall, Burlington, VT, 6 p.m. August 7.

• Paperback launch, Community High School with Book No Further, Roanoke, VA, 7 p.m. Aug. 8. In conversation with Rev. Kathy O’Keefe of Kingdom Life Ministries, International.

• Seattle Town Hall, Seattle, WA, Aug. 12.

Powell’s Cedar Hills Crossing, Portland, OR, Aug. 13.

• Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, Aug. 14.

Copperfield’s, Petaluma, CA, Aug. 16.

Booksmart at Central Library, Tulsa, OK, Aug. 18.

Upper Dublin Public Library, Fort Washington, PA: Aug. 21.

National Book Festival, Washington, D.C., Aug. 31 — in conversation with New York Times Book Review editor Pamela Paul.

• SUNY Global Center, New York, NY, Sept. 17.

 • Slover Library, Norfolk, VA, Sept. 19.

• On the Same Page, Ashe County Literary Festival, West Jefferson, NC, Sept. 20.


For a follow-up audio documentary, Patricia Mehrmann (right) and I went to Las Vegas twice in 2018 to help her find closure on the murder of her 28-year-old heroin-addicted daughter. On October 3, 2019, “Dopesick: Finding Tess,” produced by Emily Martinez, will release as a six-part series on Audible Original. | Photo by Emily Martinez

• Daily Planet Health Services, Richmond, VA, Oct. 18.

• Baruch College, CUNY, Hillman Writer in Residence, New York City, NY, Oct. 22.

• Southern Foodways Alliance, Oxford, MS, Oct. 24-26, 2019.

• Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago, IL, Nov. 2-3 — in conversation with New York Times Chicago bureau chief (and my fellow Roanoke Times alum) Monica Davey.

• Town Hall South, Pittsburgh, PA, Nov. 5.

• Aquinas University, Grand Rapids, MI, Nov. 7.

• Aspen Institute, Winter Words Event, Aspen, CO, March 31, 2020.

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 no one. 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 so many others whose efforts to access addiction treatment repeatedly were thwarted by indifference and rigid treatment ideologies.


To inquire about a lecture, 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)