2019 Wright Medal recipient for non-fiction, Ben Cooper, was born in Ellwood City, north of Pittsburgh. Today, he lives in a small rural community along the Mason-Dixon line in Somerset County, PA. The Eastern Continental Divide is his backyard view.
“Being raised on a family farm provided me with a connection to the land and animals. I cultivate those experiences in my writing because it is such an integral part of who I am.”
Ben is an avid beekeeper which stems from his days in 4-H. He now mentors in the science and art of beekeeping and teaches a course at a nearby community college. He was awarded Maryland Freestate Beekeeper Citizenship Award in 2017 for his work on beekeeping legislation for Maryland.
Pastor Darren Ritchey, a teacher at the Bible institute Ben attended, inspired him to write. “When I had to write papers, I always included animals. One day [Pastor Ritchey] said in passing, ‘You could probably write a book on animals in the Bible.’ That comment lodged in my heart and I believe God commissioned me to write it.”
In 1996, Ben dabbled with writing down notes, thoughts, and ideas whenever he could. His advice to aspiring authors is to “keep pen and paper close by—in your cars, on your nightstands, and wherever you go. Find a quiet place to take those scraps of paper and ideas and develop them into your book. In the beginning, it will look like a puzzle with just the border, but as you keep at it, the pieces will fall into place and the complete work will come into view.
I’m a double cancer survivor. Seventeen years after major surgery and 130 radiation treatments, I thought I’d ‘done my time,’ but a second cancer diagnosis drove me to complete my work. God grabbed my attention and reminded me of the book I was to write. Instead of worrying, I wrote. The three months of waiting from diagnosis to surgery could have felt like an eternity if I hadn’t engaged in writing. Cancer is a terrible disease. It affects a wide range of people and causes them to fear, but ‘God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind’” (II Timothy 1:7).
All Nature Sings, Ben’s devotional book about animals in the Bible released this past January and is a twenty-two year labor of love. Because all nature sings God’s praises, Ben wrote the book to help us learn to listen for them.
He recently retired from a thirty-two year career with the the Maryland Department of Agriculture to market his book. Retirement has allowed him to do more speaking in churches and camp ministries. “I would like to get back to doing short-term mission trips both in and out of the country.”
“Bible and Beekeeping are a lot alike. The more I study and learn about them, the more I realize that I need to study and learn more about them.” —Ben Cooper