Local author is a man of many talents

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Lebanon - posted Tue., Jul. 26, 2011
Matthew Dicks speaks at the Jonathan Trumbull Library on July 25 as part of the Connecticut Authors Trail. Photo by Melanie Savage.
Matthew Dicks speaks at the Jonathan Trumbull Library on July 25 as part of the Connecticut Authors Trail. Photo by Melanie Savage.

Matthew Dicks is a very busy guy. He’s a dad, a husband and a full-time elementary school teacher. He is a two-time published author, with a third book due out next spring. He holds one master’s degree and is working on a second. And he runs a DJ business on the side.

It was his identity as an author that brought Dicks to the Jonathan Trumbull Library on July 25, as part of the Connecticut Authors Trail. Dicks appeared in front of a large crowd of approximately 40 women and a handful of men. He began by asking if anyone objected to him skipping a reading, recalling another author’s appearance where he watched the men in the audience begin to nod off during that portion of the program.  Also, he said, “When I read, I tend to find myself wanting to change things all the time.” No one objected. So instead of reading from one of his books, Dicks began to talk. He told stories about his books, his family, the writing process and the publishing process. He talked about teaching and golfing. His stories were personal, funny and informative, and appeared to put his audience at ease.

“I’m not a very impressive person,” Dicks began, claiming that he became a writer primarily due to “boredom and laziness.” He told a story about a visit with his wife to Florida, where they stayed with an aging relative. Not a big fan of sitting by the pool, lacking Internet access and a car, Dicks began to write about Martin, “a man who goes into people’s homes to steal things,” he said. Dicks originally intended to write a short story, but “I left Boca with three chapters written,” he said. Finishing the novel at home, “I was happy that I got the book finished,” said Dicks. “I didn’t expect it to get published.” But “Something Missing” was published, and led to an option to write a second novel.

While “Something Missing” helped Dicks and his wife purchase their home, “Unexpectedly Milo,” his second novel, “helped my wife stay home for the first 18 months of Clara’s existence,” he said. Clara is Dicks’ little girl, his first child, and clearly the apple of his eye. He hilariously described the day of her birth, spent in a swivel chair with a laboring wife on one side, and a  laptop bearing the “Milo” manuscript on the other.

The idea for Milo, said Dicks, came from an incident that happened to him as a child. A member of the intellectually elite Group I in grade school, Dicks found himself within a “breeding ground for arrogant, narcissistic, awful kids,” he said, eliciting a laugh from his audience. Dicks had a friend named Chris. “Chris’ thing was that he liked to run away,” said Dicks. One of Chris’ planned adventures was a trip to Ohio, a trip that Dicks, describing himself as a “geography nerd,” helped to plan with the assistance of his trusty Atlas. Chris never ended up taking that trip. “But I always wondered what would have happened if he had,” said Dicks. What would happen if you helped a friend to plan a trip and something awful happened—if they never came back? This became the central idea for “Unexpectedly Milo,” the story of obsessive-compulsive Milo Slade, a 33-year-old man, separated from his wife, who finds a video camera and tapes left behind in a park. The tapes reveal a young woman who blames herself for the tragic death of a friend. What follows is, according to the book’s description, “a  touching novel about finding oneself, embracing the journey, and, unexpectedly, love.”

Dicks told a number of other funny, personal stories during his appearance at the Jonathan Trumbull Library, including an incident involving his childhood imaginary friend (named Johnson Johnson), and accounts of his two childhood near-death experiences. But toward the end he came back to his opening remark. “I like to let people know how unimpressive I am,” he said. Before becoming a published author himself, Dicks believed that authors must be pretty extraordinary people. “But now I believe that most of them are not,” he said. Being a writer, he said, requires the ability to sit in a chair for a long period of time and punch some keys. “At these talks I always like to encourage people to go home and write,” he said, suggesting that everyone in the room was capable of becoming a writer. “If you only end up with a book that your family reads, that’s pretty good,” said Dicks.

Dicks’ third book, “Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend,” is due out in the spring of 2012. The book is told from the point of view of the imaginary friend of a “spectrumy kid,” as Dicks describes him. Max is a highly intelligent child who exhibits symptoms that fall along the Autism spectrum. For more about Dicks and his books, go to www.matthewdicks.com. For a listing of upcoming events along the 2011 Connecticut Authors Trail, go to http://sites.google.com/site/connecticutauthorstrail2011/

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