I was born among brickyards and beer barons, in the place that spawned Pabst Blue Ribbon, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and sewer socialism. Germans and Poles filled the town with tastes of the old world: homemade sausages, squeezebox tunes and surnames that tangled even the most assured tongue. Cribbage was a rite of passage, and a good poker bluff could win the entire block’s respect. So could a knock-knock joke, if you were a moppet like me.

This was before the Internet existed, before “text” became a verb. Instead, “text” meant library books: histories, mysteries and fantasies that I’d lug home in a bike basket, teetering as I pedaled. As other kids consumed Nickelodeon and MTV, I devoured words. Before long, stories started sprouting from my brain’s wrinkles. I captured them with a pen and paper, and later a laptop. Some are wild and some are docile, but all have whisked me to new places, from newspapers and magazines to books of my very own.