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Author has a few great stories to tell

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By Kirsten Laskey

Everyone has a story to tell. Some are stories that enraptures listeners and encourages people to recommend that it be made into a book. Author and journalist Steven Kotler of Chimayo could fill a library with such stories.

He already has two of them two published, one titled “West of Jesus: Surfing, Science and the Origins of Belief” and “The Angle Quickest for Flight.” Another is slated to be released next year, titled “A Small, Furry Prayer: Dog Rescue, Animal Altruism and the Meaning of Life.”

As a freelance writer, Kotler has written stories that combine science and adventure for everything from GQ to National Geographic.

Kotler will be sharing a few of his stories during the Mesa Public Library’s Authors Speak series at 7 p.m. Thursday at the library’s rotunda.

His love for writing stories started at the age of 13. Kotler said his major aspiration was to get a girlfriend, but after walking into the cafeteria and seeing his peers sitting at a large table he realized he wasn’t the best-looking or the smartest catch, so “I decided I was going to have the best story to tell (and) always say yes to adventure.”

After graduating from college, Kotler said he had two distinct realities. He wanted to write and he wanted to have adventures. What he needed to figure out was how to get paid to have an adventure.

While at a job interview, he was introduced to the career that would fulfill his objectives. As he waited for the interview, Kotler said he picked up a copy of Bikini magazine, read an article and thought, “I could do this.”

So he faxed the magazine editor everything from term papers to his thesis.

It might not have been great examples of journalism writing but the editor liked Kotler’s enthusiasm so he called Kotler and told him if something came up, he would give him an assignment.

The first assignment Kotler said he received was to cover someone going to jail. He wrote the story, which led to other story assignments.

In the early 1990s, Kotler got involved in extreme sports. Not many writers ventured into the field. But Kotler felt his ability to ski and to lie provided him with what he needed to cover these sports.

Therefore, he moved to writing for adventure magazines.

Writing about these activities came with challenges.

“I broke a tremendous amount of bones (and I) chased people all over the world,” he said.

Among his injuries were 168 hairline fractures; one his arms was broken in four places and he was hit by a moving train.

“I really messed my body up,” Kotler said.

Even with constant training, Kolter said he would never catch up to the athletes he wrote about and tagged along with on their adventures.

He became involved with science writing when his expeditions with extreme sport athletes would take him to the middle of nowhere. When the athletes left, Kotler found himself surrounded by scientists.

For instance, he was in Ecuador during the oil war, which resulted in him being detained in his camp. “I (was) totally stuck,” he said.

So for about a month, he did field research for the scientists who were working in the rainforest. It awoke his interest in science and his questions about the subject never stopped.

“I never got bored with science,” he said.

Journalism really influenced his books, Kotler said.

A number of reporters such as Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson supported new journalism which promoted the idea that objectivity is a myth and by turning to subjectivity and by putting themselves into the story, “it was a more honest report, in their opinion,” Kotler said.

It is a philosophy Kotler incorporated into his books. He said, “My books are totally autobiographical.”

Kotler has shared his stories with Los Alamos in the past.

He gave a talk last spring about becoming a science writer and a member of the library board, Andrea Kron, was so impressed by his speech that she recommended that he speak again.