William Zinsser said, "There are no dull subjects, only dull writers." I could not help but think of this as I lost myself in "Dig," Sam Chiarelli's book about dinosaurs.
In "On Writing Well," which I use as a text in my college classes, Zinsser talks about once enjoying an article on chickens even though he has no interest in chickens. He says it's because of the writer, because of his ability to engage the reader, his effective use of the written word, and his undeniable passion for his subject. While I am more interested in dinosaurs than I am chickens, Sam Chiarelli won me by utilizing those same skills. When it comes to putting words on paper, Sam Chiarelli has a way about him. And when it comes to his passion for dinosaurs, well, let me put it this way: read his book. Or at least attend his book talk and signing at 2 p.m. next Sunday, Sept. 29, at Pittston Memorial Library.
Early in Sam's book, described on the back cover as "part science and nature adventure and part memoir," he mentions his friend and traveling companion, Tim, taking John Steinbeck's "Travels with Charley: In Search of America" along on their pilgrimage to dinosaur digs in Colorado. I'm no Steinbeck expert, but Sam's easy, clean style reminds me of him. As happens when I read Steinbeck, particularly "Travels with Charley," I feel Sam is reading his book to me, and I am just sitting there listening. I curled up with his book last Sunday night, and although it had been a long, exhausting day, I found myself on page 75 before I knew it. And way past my bedtime. Sam's writing goes down that smoothly.
Full disclosure: I was predisposed to like Sam Chiarelli's book. That's because I like Sam Chiarelli. It's hard not to. I also like his parents, Sam, whom I've known since he was 8 years old, and Mary, the former Mary Kepich, whom I've known at least as long as young Sam has been alive, which is 33 years.
Sam (the younger one) did some writing for me as a newspaper correspondent when he was in high school and college, but after earning a bachelor's degree in English from Wilkes University in 2008, he put his writing, as well as his dinosaurs, aside for a few years to pursue a music career. His band "The Silentreatment" enjoyed a good run over a three-year period, winning awards, and even opening for rock legends "Kiss." Sam says the band made enough money to pick up the cost of health care for the members, which ain't bad.
In 2010, Sam enrolled in the Master of Creative Writing program at Wilkes and after earning an MFA, did some adjunct teaching at Luzerne County Community College before rekindling his love for writing and dinosaurs.