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Creative Nonfiction Writer
Bobby’s the author of the best-selling non-fiction book Shelter: One Man’s Journey from homelessness to hope- published by the University of Arizona Press in 1998. The book is now in its second printing. It’s a true story about his life living in a Tucson Homeless Shelter in the 1990’s. Chapters from his book have been adopted in several college textbooks. Bobby Burns arrived in Tucson, Arizona, with a few dollars in his pocket and no place to live. Without family, without a job, he had nowhere to go but a homeless shelter. How did a college graduate find himself so close to life on the streets? In a voice that is startling for its simplicity and utter honesty, Burns tells the story of how he slipped into homelessness, how he learned what it means to live in a place where nobody will notice if you disappear, and how he emerged to tell his story. Bobby's diary of 41 days without a home brings readers into the world of a homeless shelter. Shelter is filled with the sights and sounds of homelessness. Shelter life is patterned by meals provided by church volunteers, lines for soap and clean towels, the repeated meticulous washing of hands by an obsessive-compulsive resident, the rare pleasure of a fried chicken dinner, the illicit smell of marijuana within the shelter. Burns witnesses the residents' struggles with drugs, alcohol, and disability, and he wonders daily whether he will have the courage to emerge from this life. Bobby's diary expresses the full range of emotions of a homeless person: anger, self-pity, pride, humility, shame, depression, and optimism. These are not contradictions; taken together they represent the real feelings provoked by homelessness. But with rare inner courage, Bobby stokes the fires of hope within himself, marking the days in his journal to keep himself from sliding deeper into a spiral of despair. Bobby confronts his own stereotypes about the homeless and learns firsthand what it means to struggle daily for survival and for dignity. He learns greater courage and he learns greater kindness. He is given food and a bed for 41 days, but he finds shelter on his own, deep within himself. He currently writes for the Arizona Informant Newspaper, a Phoenix weekly African American newspaper. Bobby earned a masters degree from Northern Arizona University and a BA degree from Arizona State University. He’s employed with a community college in Tucson, Arizona.
I’ve had work in such journals as Carolina Quarterly, Barrow Street, Cream City Review, and New Poets of the American West. My book Tough Love won the Riverstone Press Poetry Chapbook Award (West Chester, PA). Chax Press (Tucson) recently published my ninth collection, Get Serious, new and selected poems, which has been chosen as a Southwest best book of 2013. I’ve given readings at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, PimaCommunity College, and various venues in Tucson, Southern California, and Phoenix, most recently at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Arizona. I was a featured reader at the Tucson Poetry Festival in 2007 and at the Tucson Festival of Books in 2009, 2012 and 2013. In 1982, I won a Tucson/Pima Arts Council Literary Arts Fellowship. My work has been reviewed in Jacket 2, The Arizona Daily Star, and numerous publications in Tucson and Phoenix. I live in Tucson with my wife Connie and work with Sky Island Alliance, a locally-based environmental organization.
Born in Tucson, Arizona, Mr. Cochran has lived multiple lives in a variety of locations. He currently calls New York City home, where he abides a life of quiet (thunderously quiet) mediocrity. His big thrills are fleeting times when he’s free to write, teaching an excellent class, moments with friends and enemies alike, and the distant hope of some form of earthly fulfillment. You can learn more, or contact the author, by visiting the author’s webpage at aleakypen.com.