Earl Dizon, Writer and An Inspiration

February 10, 2016

Earl Dizon is a lover of all things related to books, a writer, blogger, illustrator, a champion of volunteerism, an inspiration, hilarious, and wants to make the world more kind.  I was fortunate to meet Earl on the very first job I got in Portland, at a bookseller, and we have been friends ever since.  In my goal to bring to you interesting and inspiring people from all over, I think you will find our conversation delightful.  We talked on New Year's Eve, 2015.


Please share a bit about your background:

My name is Earl, like the TV show.  I was born in the Philippines, and I moved to San Francisco when I was young, and then went back to the Philippines to finish high school.  Then I went to Las Vegas, and I did not like that at all.  After seven years there I decided to move to Portland, where I didn’t know anyone.


How did you pick Portland:

I’d never been here before so that was part of the appeal, and I was drawn to the fact that it’s a very literary city, and that’s all it takes for me.  Books.


When did your fascination with books and writing begin:

Fortunately, my grandma in the Philippines, she always gave me Little Golden Books, and my family was very encouraging and making sure I had a great education.  I’ve always been surrounded by books, my mom would always buy the encyclopedias and the great children’s literature series, and… I knew I wanted to be a writer in 1995 when I finished Christopher Pike’s “Remember Me 3:  The Last Story.”  And after I finished that book, I felt I wanted to share the magic I felt after finishing a great book.  I wanted to do the same for others that his book did for me.


I’m going to come back to books and writing in a little bit, but ever since I’ve known you, you’ve been into volunteering and giving of yourself and your time, and I’m wondering where did that start and what sparked that in your life:

I started volunteering because I moved to Portland.  I felt Portland has a way of turning all the people who move here into a Portland cliche of volunteering, riding bikes, drinking coffee, composting and recycling, but all I do is volunteer, and drink coffee.  I love volunteering, mostly for completely selfish reasons, which is that it makes me feel so good, makes me feel better about myself.  I love the high of volunteering.  


Share with us the organizations with which you have volunteered:

When I first moved to Portland, I was unemployed, and to keep my sanity, I volunteered at the Friends of the Multnomah County Library Store, and that was a great way to do what I used to do, which was be a bookseller (in Vegas).  It was great reconnecting with readers.  I’ve been a great supporter with the Children’s Book Bank, a great children’s literacy non-profit.  I do Potluck in the Park, feeding the homeless.  I’ve done cleaning the river in a canoe, which was interesting; I did not like the water.  I pulled weeds, hopefully those were weeds, I baled hay for rabbits, I served beer in the Beer Festival.  I try to look for different things that would open my mind to new experiences.  And if I don’t like it, luckily I’m not forced to commit to that project.


You came out a few years ago, and I’m just wondering what life has been like, if you can summarize life before and life after because that was a brave and inspiring thing to do:

That was a great summer, the summer of 2012.  I had just gotten laid off, and I had lots of free time to do whatever I wanted.  One day I had nothing to do and I saw that Anderson Cooper came out, and so I figured I’d write a blog post.  That was definitely a freeing moment since that was something that was weighing me down for many years.  Once I let that go and all the worries associated with it I felt more free, more able to do other things that I’ve been afraid to do, because I was worried about what others would think.  I was surprised by how supportive people have been.  I mean, if they didn’t know… I don’t know what’s wrong with them!


You’ve always been very positive, despite the decoy of your dark humor, and now you’re embarking on a new adventure, The Kindness Conversations, so please talk about your world of inspiration and positivity and what this new venture is:

That’s a tough question!  The reason I wanted to start The Kindness Conversations was because, as I’ve grown older, in my many years on this planet, I’ve actually become more cynical, I feel, even though I try to be positive, but it’s hard.  We’re saturated with negative news and people are struggling, and sometimes my positivity is kind of like a ‘fake it til you make it’ sort of thing.  So hopefully The Kindness Conversations will get people to talk about the things that are wrong in the world and actually do something about it.  Like when the Paris attacks happened, of course it was and is sad but you saw people use it as hashtag opportunities, and then 5 minutes later, or the day after, something new comes up, and they forget about it, how sad they were.  So hopefully by talking about the bad things and sharing what good things we can do whether right now or later there would be some change that could arise from the conversations.


How will it work, what’s the format:  

Right now there are prompts, like 3 questions and a prompt.  And I think, because, even though when people look at me, ‘oh, he knows everything because he has great hair,’ but that’s not the case… so hopefully I’ll have people answer and I’ll feature responses once a week, and have a resource center.  I think it would be nice to have a great place to find information, like if they wanted to help fight homelessness or tackle education issues  they have some resources.  A big thing that’s on my mind right now is suicide, it seems like it’s on the rise, and I hate the sense that people feel so isolated, so even just having the suicide hotline number there along with articles about it and other people passionate about it they can connect if they need help.


In addition to this endeavor, what are some of your other goals and dreams:

I love resolutions, I love lists… I’m going back to the Philippines to visit, and I doing something called Change for Change, I’ll be using my credit card less and saving the loose change I have from cash and I want to tie it into my commitment to literacy.  And this year it’s going to focus on finding a legacy for my sister who passed away a few years ago.  I want people to remember her.  I want to honor her that way.  And of course being more kind.  And five years running now, learn how to speak Spanish.  And to support independent bookstores.  


Any writing goals:  

Writing, yes, 2015 was actually good in making progress in my picture book since I let go of the idea that I should also illustrate the picture book I’m going to write, but once I realized I had no talent for that the words came more freely.  I let go of my expectations of myself and then I’m going to polish the book, which I’ve let people read and I’ve had great feedback and I’m going to start sending those out and hopefully someone will pick it up.  And I’ll continue writing more, like short stories and more picture books because I feel like I’m in a good place creatively.  


If you only had one piece of inspiration for us, what would it be:

Not to sound like a fortune cookie, and I’ve said it a lot, my advice to anyone is to love.  Love yourself, love others and I really don’t think you can go wrong with that.


Where can we find you online:

The Chronicles of a Children's Book Writer takes you there, too.


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