While he found great satisfaction in the success of former students, Burns had long wanted to explore another path. It took the birth of his daughter to push him into pursuing a path in the literary arts.
“As someone returning to child-rearing in his mid-40s, I was emotionally conflicted,” says the 46-year old Riverside resident. “I did not want to get her through high school, only to look back and wonder if it was too late to live that literary life I dreamed about.”
Burns says that he worked up the courage to pitch a crazy idea to his wife. He explained to her that since they were having trouble figuring out what to do for child care, perhaps he should stay home.
“When she didn’t give me ‘that look’ or spontaneously go into labor, I pressed ahead,” he says.
Burns, who had also been teaching as an adjunct instructor for the University of Phoenix, added more classes, including at Riverside City College.
By the time he returned from paternity leave, he had implemented a strategy to support their new baby, as well as his new writing career.
As long as he can remember, Burns enjoyed telling stories. He drew inspiration from his parents’ reactions. Being able to make up something, but experience a real emotion still mesmerizes him.
“We live for such a short period of time,” he says. “There is so much to see and experience, a single life could not contain it. But with writing, I can create and then experience those worlds, those far-flung experiences.”
In 2015, Burns became part of the “52 Project,” part of the Riverside Art Museum’s Art Make program under the direction of Sue Mitchell. A self-directed, 52 week journaling program, it was designed to help busy people develop routines of capturing creative thoughts and being artful on a regular basis.
“The 52 Project brought together the arts, personal enrichment and community togetherness in a way that I respect and desire,” he says. “Once I saw how those could and should be connected, it fundamentally changed me. I could not help but see how all the communities that make up Riverside were interconnected and interdependent.”
The book that resulted is “100 Things to Do in Riverside Before You Die,” published by Reedy Press. It features restaurants, entertainment, events and out-of-the-way experiences.
“I wanted this to be more than just ‘Larry’s List,” he says. “I wanted it to be a community book; Riverside’s book.”
Burns has also written “Being Wendall,” which he says illustrates how family is not something you are born into, but rather something you create. His book, “Do Your Chores, Love Dad” is a collection of poetry and collage. Next, he will work on a short novel about a future economy based entirely on trash.
“I plan to print them on fast food bags and sell them as individual creative art projects,” he says, adding that is what he will be working on in the 2017 edition of the “52 Project.”
Burns says that now is the best time for a person to begin nurturing their own inner artist.
“I hope some people will read my work and be motivated to dust off that manuscript or half-finished watercolor and get to work doing the thing you are supposed to be doing with the time you have left, no matter wherever or whenever you are,” he says.
“100 Things to Do in Riverside Before You Die” will be released in major retailers and bookstores on March 30. A book launch will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. March 25 at the Riverside Art Museum.