Funded! This project was successfully funded on May 24, 2011.


The Language of the Birds is a little book of essays about bird science and mythology—written by the light of the midnight sun.

Hi! Since we were able to reach the astounding figure of $2,000, a chunk of the money beyond my original goal will pay for the incredibly talented Diana Sudyka to paint original cover art for The Language of the Birds. Diana is a fellow bird-enthusiast and Field Museum volunteer who also happens to be an amazing professional artist. You may have seen her work on Andrew Bird and Decemberists posters (among other places), as well as at her Tiny Aviary blog. I am ridiculously happy about this; it will make all your books so much more beautiful! 

The Plan 

I'm spending the summer of 2011 at the Lake Ånnsjön Bird Observatory in the village of Handöl, Sweden: it's a tiny working ornithological research center. While I'm there, I'll be tramping about getting sweaty as a volunteer field assistant. I'll also be researching, taking notes and photographs for, and writing the first draft of The Language of the Birds.

The Book

The Language of the Birds is a little collection of bite-sized bird essays—no more than 50 pages in total.

It is a book inspired by a Nordic myth about a perfect language spoken by the birds and by the gods.

It is also a book about present-day field biologists and what science has to teach us about bird nature and human nature.

And finally, it is a book about how we are changed by place. What happens when you travel from the skyscrapers of Chicago to a tiny village in Sweden? What shifts over those 4,000 miles?

The Language of the Birds will be part myth, part science essay, and part travelogue. Imagine the things I write about here, bound into a little paper curiosity cabinet, and you've imagined The Language of the Birds. 

The book will be available as a PDF, but I'd also like it to exist in physical form. In print it will be a small, substantial zine, something to stick in your coat pocket and read on the train—or pull out on a bench in the company of sparrows.

The Money

Kickstarter money will not be used to pay for my plane ticket, train ticket, food, or any other expenses associated with traveling to Sweden. Being a field volunteer is something I've wanted to do for a long time, on my own steam, and it's important to me that you know you're not being asked to fund it.

Your contribution will go towards the cost of producing and distributing The Language of the Birds. Most of it will be used to pay for printing, postage, film photography (I'm bringing two cameras to Sweden, one digital and one 35mm), and research (acquiring books/journal articles). Beyond that—if there is a beyond—Kickstarter money will help me to carve out a little time away from work to edit, rewrite, and format the book when I get back to Chicago. I'll mail out copies in the late fall.


If you're looking at this page, there's a good chance you already know me. But if you don't, these posts are a good primer on how I work as a writer:

This Constant Heart

On the Perpetual Balancing Act

The Very Distillate of Life

Before You Know It

If you'd like to learn more about the observatory where I'm volunteering, you can do that here. I leave on the day fundraising closes.

And thank you.


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  • Pledge $5 or more
    You selected

    2 backers

    A thank-you email from me to you—from Sweden. It will be sent during my stay at the observatory, and will contain a story, observation, or photo from that day's bird work—a little piece of my summer in your mailbox.

  • Pledge $10 or more
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    15 backers

    The above thank you, except instead of an email you'll receive a postcard from Sweden! You'll also get a digital (PDF) copy of The Language of the Birds.

  • Pledge $25 or more
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    45 backers

    A surprise postcard from Sweden (see above!), and a printed copy of The Language of the Birds, inscribed with a note from me to you.

  • Pledge $35 or more
    You selected

    22 backers All gone!

    A surprise postcard from Sweden, a printed copy of The Language of the Birds, and a 11x17 limited edition full-color broadside (a beautiful, wordy poster) printed with an excerpt from The Language of the Birds.

  • Pledge $50 or more
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    3 backers All gone!

    All of the above, plus a cameo appearance in the book by you and/or a bird species of your choice. (If you're a backer at this level, I'll contact you over the summer to ask a couple of questions).

Funding period

- (30 days)