A champion of literature
According to Wilsonville-based author Chad Trisef, while modern technologies capture an increasing chunk of the world's attention, the magic of the written word is a lost art.
So Trisef devotes much of his life to help children find it.
In collaboration with his brother Wayne, Trisef is the co-author of "The Oracle Series," which targets readers ages 9-17 and gives presentations to schools across the United States discussing literature, his books and creativity.
"And that's why I go around and visit schools and do assemblies now — to help kids grow with their creativity, with their interest in reading; because it's something that a lot of kids struggle with especially nowadays with phones and technology," Trisef said.
Yet, for much of his youth, Trisef was averse to reading.
Instead of voraciously plowing through literature, he played basketball, skateboarded and spent much of his free time outside. And he appreciated other subjects more — believing math and science were cool, whereas literature was geeky.
It wasn't until he discovered classics such as Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter" during his Advanced Placement English classes that he grew to appreciate print.
Still, although Trisef enjoyed writing in college, he earned his bachelor and master's degrees in accounting and has worked as an accountant and chief financial officer for the past 20 years.
But in his mid-20s, while he began to cultivate a family, Trisef realized he wanted to write books that engage children.
And while shuttling back and forth from Portland to New York and other destinations for his day job, he wrote in hotel rooms, airplanes and wherever was convenient.
He began writing in 2004 and, with Wayne's help, published the first of "The Oracle Series" under the name C.W. Trisef in 2011. They have published four more books since.
The series documents the journeys of Ret Cooper's quest to find the six original elements while discovering the oracle and its powers. Their books delve into high-minded issues such as equality and freedom, self-control and virtue, wealth inequality and physical health.
Collaborative writing is rare in the publishing world but the Trisefs' disparate skills complement each other. Chad handles much of the story creation and school presentations while Wayne finetunes the prose and handles social media.
"I don't know why it works but it does," Trisef said. "In the beginning it was challenging. It was almost like we were fighting over chapters. But then as we both realized we needed each other, it's gotten easier and easier."
Most authors struggle to garner publicity and readership. But the Trisefs had a plan. Instead of sitting on their hands and waiting for a lucky break, they reached out to schools across the country asking if they could give literacy advocacy presentations for free. Trisef says he has given over 600 presentations and he estimates that about 80 percent of the approximately 35,000 books they've sold have derived from school presentations.
"Education is the number one priority," Trisef said. "Sure it's great marketing. Every person who sees the assembly will be interested in the books. Hopefully we get some sales out of it."
Trisef says during school presentations, he talks about his zest for adventure, mystery, maps and finding lost cities as a child — as well as science and geography and how these interests helped inspire the book series.
"It's a fun, interactive way to push education into the forefront for these kids," Trisef said.
Along with the books and presentations, the Trisefs started a nonprofit called Coy Manor and a social networking site called YourWorld.
Coy Manor is the name of an extravagant mansion in the books that also serves as a school that helps the undereducated and underprivileged. He hopes to use this ethos of personal success leading to philanthropy through the nonprofit and to use the money raised to build a real-life Coy Manor designed to help those without food, shelter, health, employment and other necessities as well as to inspire creativity and advocate for literacy.
"We want to help people the same way that Coy Manor helps people in the story," Trisef said. "We want to help people; we want to build a cool empire where we do stories, hopefully do movies — do all those things people want to do with a cool story. And then we want to give it all back and be really helpful to all the communities and it would also be cool to build a Coy Manor in every big city around the world for a place people can go who need help."
YourWorld is a social networking site for kids to share ideas, funny memes, book recommendations and other forms of self-expression.
"It's pretty basic but we'd love to add more interactive aspects to it like maybe a video game, or interesting ways for kids to connect and keep their eyeballs on the screen," Trisef said.
Trisef says his business background has helped him operate these adjoining aspects of his mission in an organized and monetarily optimal fashion.
"Most authors have to have another job because there's no money in books unless you sell a lot of books. Having the business background has helped with costs to keep it going," he said.
Trisef aspires to turn the book series into feature films or a television series and has discussed such proposals with movie producers — though discussions haven't led to contractual agreements. However, a local movie producer created a trailer for the book series and Trisef shows the trailer at assemblies. Trisef says he will continue to give educational presentations, work toward their goal of earning a movie deal and finish off the last two books in "The Oracle Series" in the next few years.
"After they see the trailer the kids are like 'When's the movie coming out,'" Trisef said.
The wonders of diving deep into a compelling narrative are hard for Trisef to describe. Yet, in his experience, he says the pictures derived from the imagination are often more impactful than the vision of a director and screenwriter projected onto a screen.
"That spark, that excitement you see when someone reads a good book and they really enjoyed it, it's really hard to explain but it's really awesome," Trisef said.