Michael Capek, Cumberland College class of 1969, grew up in rural northern Kentucky where he still roams the countryside, seeking wildflowers and inspiration. “Nature has been my retreat and muse from my earliest days,” he said. After graduating from Simon Kenton High School, Michael matriculated at Cumberland College where he majored in English and minored in French with secondary education certification. Michael credits Cumberland with helping him find “the three loves of my life”: teaching, writing, and his wife Terri Richardson, who also graduated from CC in 1969.
An encounter with Kentucky author Jesse Stuart during Michael’s first year at CC validated his early desire to teach and to write. He recalls Eugene Wiggins, Emma McPherson, and Charles Dupier as teachers who had the most profound and lasting impact on his life. Another of Michael’s fondest memories of CC is participating in College Bowl. “I was a member of the infamous Antediluvian Altruists team. We were a ragtag assortment of scholars from various backgrounds, but the chemistry worked.” Michael’s dedication to the cause was proven in his senior year when, to keep his team from losing by default, he competed in a match while suffering from an advanced case of hepatitis—much to the dismay (when he found out) of Dr. J.P. Duke, College Bowl moderator.
Michael returned to his native northern Kentucky to teach at Walton-Verona High School (Boone County) for twenty-seven years. Aside from Language Arts courses and French, Michael was yearbook, newspaper, and video journalism advisor and helped found the school’s gifted/talented program. He also coached basketball, cross country and track. He earned an MA in English from Eastern Kentucky University in 1976.
Michael’s first professional magazine piece was an article about the Cumberland Falls moonbow, which appeared in the children’s magazine Ranger Rick in 1981. Shortly after, he received an assignment to write fiction for The Baptist Sunday School Board’s children’s magazine Adventure and other BSSB publications. Over the years he’s published stories in a variety of magazines, including Cricket, Highlights for Children and Teen. Many of these have been reprinted in school reading texts. Michael is also the author of fourteen books, twelve of which are for middle school readers, who, he says, are his favorite audience. Michael’s most recent book is his first historical novel, The Steamboat Shuffle, a middle grade novel based upon an historical event that occurred in Cincinnati in 1922, when a young boy stowed away aboard the boat of President Warren G. Harding. “I worked on that book for fifteen years before I finally got the voice right,” Michael said. “But it was a story and a character that simply would not leave me alone. It demanded to be written.”Michael spends his leisure time hiking, playing his clarinet, growing bonsai trees, and doting on his three grandchildren. His newest writing projects include a children’s biography of artist/animator Winsor McCay and a YA novel set partly in the hills of southeastern Kentucky.