More About the Author
Jan Adkins was raised in West Virginia and Ohio, around Wheeling. He spent a lot of time wandering the woods around his home in St. Clairsville with a .22. Though a few squirrels and rabbits fell to his marksmanship, his usual quarry was dangerous cans and the occasional uppity stump.
His father was an inventive, clever, wise-cracking contractor, and certainly among the most irritating jackanapes in the Tri-State Area. His mother was a wholly unpredictable loon blessed with great beauty and a lovely Welsh soprano voice. He and his sister, Dr. Dr. Judy Porter (two degrees), remember childhood as one might recall a particularly confusing bagpipe concert.
The young Adkins was a lackadaisical, scatter-brained and uninspired student right through school. Teachers and elders repetitively commented, "But he has such great potential!" These comments and sentiments were less than helpful. He attended Ohio State University for more than eight years, flunking out several times. At first he studied architecture, and for a time he was a draftsman for one of Eero Saarinen's senior designers, W. Byron Ireland, in Columbus. He still loves architecture. When he returned to school after a nasty struggle with depression, he had his feet beneath him at last and found that good grades were relatively easy. In this second phase of his long university career he studied literature and creative writing. He's still studying them.
He married a smart-mouthed, delightfully droll Yankee girl, Deborah Kiernan, and they moved to his wife's wonderful hometown of Wareham, Massachusetts. Somehow, the water suited him more than the St. Clairsvillian hills and he thinks of Buzzards Bay as his heart's home. Many of his books are set in New England waters where he sailed up and down the coast with his family.
He has three children: Sally lives with her husband Patrick in Gainesville, Florida, with grandsons Max and Luc; Sam is a chef in DC with his lovely partner Aphra; Web and his Cyn live in Seattle with grandchildren Alder and River.
His first wife died. He was married to his second wife, Dorcas Adkins, for almost ten years and they remain loving friends. About his brief third marriage he is content to say "Support mental health."
In 1980 he moved to Washington, DC, to be an art director for National Geographic Magazine, the job for which he was born. For nine years he explained science, technology, history, medicine and archaeology. His editor-in-chief, Bill Garrett (it was the Golden Age of Geographic) described his job as "getting a doctorate every third month." Adkins still considers himself the Explainer General.
After Geographic he continued to live in DC and then in Annapolis. He was a contributing editor for Muse, a magazine he helped start. It is a co-publication of two of his old friends, Smithsonian and Cricket Magazines. As he pursued his task of finding stories around Smithsonian's many museums, he was know to Muse as "The Mall Rat."
He's written for Smithsonian Magazine, Cricket and Muse Magazines, Harper's, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, Sail, WoodenBoat, Maine Boats Homes & Harbors and others. He also works on museum exhibits with Eisterhold Associates out of Kansas City.
For several years he taught editorial illustration, history of illustration, and graphic design at Rhode Island School of Design and at Maryland Institute, College of Art. He misses teaching.
A great part of his output is books of non-fiction for young people, his special audience. He also writes humor and feature articles for several magazines. He has illustrated most of his books and contributes illustrations to dozens of mainstream magazines, especially on marine and technical subjects.
He lives presently in Novato, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. He loves to hike, cook, sail, ski, bicycle, play tennis, and take delicious naps. He writes every day.
Adkins is always working on two or three books. Even after more than 40 published works he's confounded by the much-changed publishing world and is trying to adapt faster than the less-successful dinosaurs.