The Short Version
Kevin Tumlinson is the Wordslinger—Author and Host of the Wordslinger Podcast. Kevin has dozens of novels, novellas, and non-fiction books available and is producing more every day. He currently lives in Sugar Land, Texas, with his amazing wife Kara—though the two of them are actively working to downsize into an RV and travel full time while Kevin writes about all of it.
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The much longer version
I grew up in Wild Peach, Texas. If you'Ve heard of it, you're probably from there.
It's the kind of place where a kid can grow up knowing what it's like to climb trees and wander in the woods and swim in rivers, all while being within shouting distance of his Granny calling him to dinner. It was also a breeding ground for stories—which explains practically everything.
I grew up in a house filled with stories. They were in my DNA. Folktales and tall tales, whoppers and (little white) lies, and a family lore steeped in wise cracking and down-home wisdom—that's where I grew up. The perfect breeding ground for a Wordslinger.
Some of my favorite toys were just junk I found laying about, in heaps kept by my grandfather in his tool shed, or in piles left curbside for the trash collectors to cart away. You'd be amazed how many of my books today are just warmed over versions of the stories I came up with while playing with a piece of scrap or the odd bit of wire from a broken air conditioner.
I spent hours creating back stories and characters and scenarios that matched up to whatever my imagination made of what I'd found. It was some of the best story craft training in the world.
At some point, my family gave me a tape recorder for Christmas, along with a pack of cassettes. The phrase "it is ON" hadn't yet made it into popular vernacular at the time, but it sill applies. Once I had a means of recording my thoughts—like dumping my brain directly to miles of magnetic tape—storytelling was the very first thing I did. And I inflicted those stories on the only audience around, which happened to be my poor mother, mostly disinterested brother, and my long-suffering grandmother. God bless 'em. They gave a growing boy all the encouragement he needed.
I wrote my first book when I was five years old. It was five pages—front and back—on lined notebook paper. I hand-crafted a cover—beginning a long tradition of designing the covers for my books—and bound the whole thing along the edge with staples and a nice masking tape binding.
Artisanal craftsmanship before being artisanal was cool, man.
When I brought my masterpiece to school, my teacher laughed and said, "Books aren't written on notebook paper, silly!"
And the whole class laughed along with her.
I slunk to my desk, deflated and defeated, and on that day a life-long battle with imposter syndrome began. I had to publish half a dozen books before it finally started to let up. I'm hoping to have it licked by the time I'm 90.
I wrote short stories throughout my school years—sometimes to the frustration consternation of my teachers, who would have preferred I just stuck to the essay topics. But I became known for those stories. People saw what I was doing, and figured that writing was something I'd do as a career. It was obvious!
I really wish someone would have told me.
Because for most of my career, I wrote and told stories on the side as I tried to figure out exactly what I wanted to do for a living. I took jobs doing things like working in electronics, then producing radio and television, and then eventually copywriting for marketing and advertising agencies, plus a few hundred clients. And all the while I kept wondering, "What should I do for a career?"
I wrote books because I always wanted to write books—thinking, "Wouldn't it be cool to write books for a living? If only I could!"
Yeah, I know, right? Not so bright.
It was four decades after I came screaming into the world that I realized I had been doing what I wanted to do "when I grew up" for my entire career—I just hadn't done it as my career.
Every job I ever had, every career leap I ever made—it all had been one big funnel that eventually nudged me to where I'd wanted to go all along. I just hadn't realized I wanted to go there.
I'm a storyteller, first and foremost. The story comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes—from books to podcasts to public speaking. But it's the story that sticks around, when everything else fades away. That's my through-line. That's my A-story. That's the shape of my life.
Once I knew this, I realized just how powerful story really is.
Story shapes our culture, our career, and our lives. It defines us. It makes us who we are. It creates the world we live in, pretty much as we go.
That's why I started helping other people figure out how to shape their own stories—through my podcasts and my books and my blog posts. I started working with people to help them develop the skills and discipline they need to tell their story, their way. I helped people open new doors for themselves. And it felt good.
First among all things, I'm a storyteller. And I'm so ridiculously grateful for the readers who come to me and love my work as much as I do.
And I'm also so grateful to be able to give back by creating a body of work that helps will-be authors start doing some storytelling of their own.
That's my story. Some of it, anyway. To get the rest, you'll just have to read along. It'll be fun for both of us.