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David Michaelis
Beacon Member

An award-winning writer, primarily of full-length narrative biographies, David joined the Beacon hive in March 2021.


I’m a(n)…

writer of books, and the ones that seem to work out best are biographies.

I’m passionate about…

prose. About getting it right, finding the irreplaceable word, serving the story and the reader.

Briefly describe your work.

My books, full-length narrative biographies, take as long as they take, which is always longer than I think. I’ve just spent ten privileged years in the wild with Eleanor Roosevelt.

Before that, six years in Santa Rosa, CA, St. Paul, MN, Colorado Springs, CO, and Needles, CA, with Charles Schulz, creator of PEANUTS. Before that, seven years in Chadds Ford, PA, Needham, MA, Port Clyde, ME, with the painter and illustrator, N. C. Wyeth.

What do you love about what you do?

I love that biography allows me to live fully in time and to see what it takes to live a human life. “I will live in the past, the present, and the future,” vows Scrooge, after the fog of a lifetime’s illusions lifts. A biographer shares that spirit.

How did you start (your work)?

Each time with an image from my earliest childhood experience of my subject: a bow drawn in N. C. Wyeth’s Sherwood Forest; the pen line of Charlie Brown’s head; the light in Eleanor Roosevelt’s eyes.

Then a palette: Wyeth, full color; Schulz, black and white; Eleanor, portrait in grays.

Next, a look into the shelf of books on my subject: what gap will mine fill? Meanwhile, the papers: May I read them?

Where do you see your work going in the next year… five?

Eleanor was published last October, so my next subject may not yet have had time to find me. Several stories want looking into; and I’ve never been more certain that a few uncounted rings need to accumulate in the tree. Lot of sky overhead with Eleanor gone.

What do you like best about BEAHIVE?

Each book has been a teacher; one of Eleanor’s insights is that by being in community, we can find what makes us most human, most individual. Even when the work is deeply solitary, the little things — a greeting, a kindness, something shared — are the surest way to reopen heart, mind, spirit.

What’s your favorite thing about the local community?

The first time I walked the length of Main Street, from Fishkill Falls to Bank Square, I had the impression that I was witnessing the rebirth of a post-industrial city as a diverse community in a true multiethnic democracy. The Hudson Valley, which has historically welcomed dreamers and their visionary settlements, can get you thinking like that.

Nevertheless, Beacon proved to be real, and BEAHIVE, a genuine hub, turned out to be rooted in that rising city.

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