Book events and signings

Speaking gig update: The official Dopesick book tour is beginning to wind down, but I am still lining up presentations and book festival talks well into 2019. (The list changes on a daily basis — and isn’t always completely up-to-date — so please check back for further details.) The following 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.

• 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.

• Floyd Center for the Arts, 3 p.m. Sunday Nov. 25 in Floyd, Va.

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.

• Roanoke College, Copenhaver Institute, Feb. 5-7.

• Appalachian State College, Feb. 28, 2019.

• Quinnipiac University, March 4, 2019.

• Ohio University, April 3, 2019.

• Chattaqua Institute, part of “Uncommon Ground: Communities Working Toward Solutions,” with a lecture on Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in the Hall of Philosophy.

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





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)