People You Should Meet: Michael J. Rosen

Jane Hawes

The dome in the ceiling of Michael J. Rosen's living room is a repurposed satellite dish.

"I'm thinking of lining it with these wood-cut prints of letter and words," he said, staring up at the bare metal ribs of the dish and the silver sheets of insulation behind them.

A platter of soccer-ball-sized, orange-yellow fungi sits on his kitchen counter with two field guides opened next to it. The thick, curly objects have been identified as "Omphalotus olearius" or "Jack O' Lantern" mushrooms, scavenged from the woods that surround Rosen's home in Glenford, Ohio, just east of Buckeye Lake.

"A friend brought them to me to identify," Rosen explained. "I like to collect things. A lot of the things I did as a kid, I still do, rather than do the things that other adults maybe do more efficiently."

Other adults may be more efficient at some tasks than the 56-year-old Rosen, but few could lay claim to authoring nearly 100 books, most of them for children. Though not a parent himself, the Columbus native (born and raised in the Berwick neighborhood) has lived the life of a knowledge junkie and now channels it into as many as four or five writing projects at a time.

Rosen got a degree in zoology from The Ohio State University, spent six months in med school, then ditched the linear thinking to follow the creative path he kept veering onto. After getting a master's degree in poetry from Columbia University, he made his way back to Columbus where he ended up as literary director of The Thurber House, which has become a local and national hub for writers.

But the most cataclysmic change came, quietly enough, in the early '90s when Rosen wrote his first children's book. It was called "Elijah's Angel: A Book for Chanukah and Christmas." It's been a near endless stream of books since then, with four coming out this fall.

"It's your nature as a writer to do something with your ideas," Rosen said of his prolific tendencies.

This past summer, Rosen was deeply involved in the final editing of "My Dog!" which debuts on Oct. 3 and has been many years in the making. It's a guide for children and parents on dog care, from selecting the right breed for your family's situation to an ingenious dry-erase dog-care chart. Dogs are a huge part of Rosen's life, as evidenced by the friendly herd of nine rescue dogs he cares for at his rural Ohio home.

"My goal from the outset was to have kids participate richly, fully and not in a frustrated manner with taking care of their dogs," Rosen explained. And he's looking forward to the upcoming book tour to promote the book because it gives him a chance to hang with his young audiences.

"I truly listen to kids," Rosen said. "I think I'm just arrested happily in my own childhood."

Rosen's next batch of books and local appearances:

*"Night of the Pumpkinheads," illustrated by Hugh McMahon - publication date: Aug. 18; appearances: Sept. 9, 3-6 p.m. and Sept. 10, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at Longaberger Homestead, 5563 Raiders Road, Frazeysburg; Oct. 1, 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., at Cover to Cover Bookstore, 3560 N. High St., Clintonville; Oct. 1, 6:30-9 p.m., at Bink Davies, 668 N. High St., Short North

*"Hound Dog's Haiku" - publication date: Sept. 13; appearance: Sept. 22, 5:30-7 p.m., at Riffe Center Gallery, poetry reading with Mimi Chenfeld and others, 77 S. High St., Downtown

*"Chanukah Lights - publication date: Sept. 27; appearance: Oct. 30, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Leo Yassenoff Jewish Community Center's Jewish Book Fair, 1125 College Ave., Columbus

*"My Dog!" - publication date: Oct. 3; appearance: Oct. 22 at the Books on the Banks book festival, Cincinnati

*And check Rosen's website,, for more information.