Storyteller, humorist, artist, musician, naturalist, back porch philosopher—Melvyn Stiriss was born in New York City in 1942, raised in Edgewater, New Jersey and attended the University of Richmond. After college, Melvyn worked as a newspaper reporter in New Jersey and as a reporter, editor, and announcer for United Press International wire service in New York and Chicago.
Melvyn worked a stint as a Madison Avenue publicist, a “Mad Man,” had a spiritual identity crisis, smoked marijuana, tried LSD and Zen, went to Woodstock, “dropped out” and followed “the powerful mysterious energy of the time”—over the edge, out of the box and into the heart of the cultural revolution—San Francisco,” where the young seeker found a weed-smoking “psychedelic Zen guru,” Stephen Gaskin.
Melvyn joined Gaskin’s far-out cannabis peace and truth church, caravaned around the country with 100 colorfully-painted school buses and became a founder and long-term resident member of Gaskin’s collective community in Summertown, Tennessee—The Farm. Here Melvyn lived, married, became a father and worked as a farmer, carpenter, mason, chef, miller, head baker, gate man, newspaper editor and worked thirteen months in Guatemala doing volunteer earthquake reconstruction work with a team from the community and Mayans, building rural schools, clinics and houses.
After leaving the community in 1984, Melvyn moved to Austin, Texas where he worked as a carpenter, co-director of Casa Marianela refuge, taught vegan cooking and worked in a dozen movies in various capacities including carpenter, set dresser, prop maker, locations and as an extra. Melvyn now lives in Upstate New York, travels the country on speaking tours and is working on screen and stage adaptations of Voluntary Peasants. He loves hiking, playing keyboard, photography, movies, and reading great literature.
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Voluntary Peasants is also available as a 6-part eBook series here