Book events and signings

Speaking gig update: I’m winding down my talks for the paperback publication of TRUEVINE, a book about race, greed, and the human condition. But please check back here for exciting events timed around the Aug. 7, 2018 release of DOPESICK. (We are adding to the list every week.)

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.

• Keynote address on DOPESICK, Tom Tom Founders Festival, a creative place-making and social justice conference held in Charlottesville, Virginia; noon to 1:40 p.m. April 13, 2018.  Bashir’s, 507 E. Main St., Charlottesville. Click here to purchase tickets.

• Booker T. Washington Legacy dinner. The theme of this event is “A Mother’s Quest,” a fundraiser for the Friends of the Booker T Washington National Monument. Trinity Ecumenical Parish, Moneta, Virginia, April 28, 2018. For more information, contact Cindy Simmons at

• Shared Space: I will moderate a community conversation for individuals who’ve experienced loss created by substance abuse;  a panel discussion will be comprised of families directly affected by loss, as well as prevention specialists and mental health providers who work directly with substance abuse. Tuesday, May 22, with a reception beginning at 5:30 p.m. and a community conversation at 6 p.m. Virginia Western Community College Fralin Center, Registration required due to limited seating. For more information and to register, please contact Carilion Direct at 540-266-6000 or 1-800-422-8482.

• Spring Commencement Speaker at my undergraduate alma mater, Bowling Green State University (’86), Bowling Green, Ohio, May 5, 2018.

Spring Commencement Speaker at Virginia Tech (English department), May 12, 2018.

Greensboro Literary Festival, presenting on a panel with the incomparable Hal Crowther and Jared Yates Sexton on May 19 at 11:15 a.m. at the Greensboro History Museum, and I’ll be doing a solo presentation on May 20 at 1 p.m. in the Van Dyke performance space. More information can be found here.

• The Roanoke launch of DOPESICK, featuring the portrait work of photographer Josh Meltzer, will take place at The Taubman Museum of Art at 2 p.m. on Aug. 12; check back here for more details closer to the date.

• Bradley Free Clinic Book & Author Dinner, Valhalla Vineyards Oct. 3, 2018; details to come.


Me and Josh, collaborating and 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 work.

• The Richmond launch of DOPESICK, where I will return to the scene of my archival research (featured below) at the Library of Virginia on Aug. 14, 2018. Reception at 5:30 and the program starts at 6. Co-produced by Chop Suey Books.

• Scuppernong Books, reading/discussion at the amazing Greensboro store, 7 p.m. Aug. 15, 2018.

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, a surgeon’s daughter who attended private school and loved poetry and the essays of David Sedaris, asked me to chronicle her story of becoming addicted to opioid pills and heroin in 2015. I dedicate this book to her, “our poet,” and to so many others whose efforts to access addiction treatment repeatedly butted up against 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)