Michael Leali is a writer and educator
He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When he’s not dreaming up stories, he’s probably playing a board game, eating cheese, or grading papers somewhere in the suburbs of Chicago. The Civil War of Amos Abernathy is his debut novel.
Michael Leali identifies as white, cisgender, gay, and uses he/him pronouns.
The Civil War of Amos Abernathy
Twelve-year-old Amos Abernathy, an openly gay historical reenactor, sets out to prove to himself and his closeted crush that queer people always have and always will exist in American history. The contemporary middle grade novel is told partly in letters to Albert D.J. Cashier, the Union soldier uncovered by Amos’s research, who becomes his confidant and historical queer icon.
ADD TO YOUR GOODREADS!
Who is Michael Leali?
Michael Leali grew up in the suburbs of Chicago with two parents, three siblings, and occasional pets. His mom read to him and his siblings early on, everything from Little House on the Prairie to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He was homeschooled most of his elementary and middle school years before attending Oswego High School in Oswego, Illinois.
While in high school, Michael decided to say “yes” to just about every opportunity that came his way. He sang in several choirs, acted in plays and musicals, competed in multiple Speech Team events, assisted in daily morning broadcasts, participated in literary festivals, and was a member of the National Honors Society. For a boy who spent most of his early childhood at home tucked away with a book, this was a drastic turn of events. He was at school most days from 6:30 a.m. to 8 or 9 p.m.
After high school, Michael thought he would pursue vocal performance—he was classically trained and loved singing Italian arias. But, at the last moment, he decided to pursue English, and attended the University of Iowa. While there, Michael continued to sing in an all-male a cappella group as he earned his degree in English Secondary Education with a minor in music.
After graduating from college in 2013, Michael worked for the Oswegoland Park District, assisting the marketing and special events teams. He also served as the administrative director for the Limelight Theatre Company; he had acted with them as a youth, and now was directing, writing, and teaching for them. Then Michael was hired at Oswego High School to teach English, Broadcast Journalism, and Creative Writing. While there, he also assistant directed plays and musicals and sponsored the Broadcast Club.
Michael tried to balance the responsibilities of writing and teaching, but it became an increasingly difficult challenge. In his third year of teaching, Michael knew something needed to change if he was going to achieve his dream of writing stories for children. So, he quit and received his Master of Fine Arts at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults.
Getting his MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults was a transformational experience, personally and intellectually. Michael grew close to his community of fellow writers and strived to produce his best work under the guidance of master authors such as Will Alexander, David Gill, Kekla Magoon, and A.S. King.
While Michael completed his MFA, he continued to work full time, but now he embraced unexpected opportunities. For a year he worked as a Teaching Assistant in a junior high special education program that served students with behavioral and emotional disorders. Then he became the Children’s Manager for Anderson’s Bookshop in La Grange, Illinois. There he led book clubs, matched readers with stories, and helped create a new summer reading program. After a year, another opportunity presented itself in the bookish community: working as a marketing specialist at Sourcebooks, an independent trade publisher in Naperville, Illinois. In his new role, Michael attended trade shows, helped design marketing materials, and worked closely with New York Times bestselling authors.
As much as he loved working in the book world, Michael felt the tug to resume teaching and working with young people. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Michael returned to Oswego High School and continues to teach there quite happily.
While Michael chased these educational and occupational adventures, he also signed with Sara Crowe at Pippin Properties for representation. In the fall of 2020, they sold Michael’s debut middle grade novel, The Civil War of Amos Abernathy, to Stephanie Stein at HarperCollins in a two-book deal.
Now, Michael writes in all of his spare moments and teaches in the others. He is very happy with all of this.
If you would like to contact Michael about speaking or participating in an event, please complete the form in his Contacts page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Educators & Parents
Michael Leali loves sharing books and writing craft with readers and writers of all ages.
If you would like to contact him about events, school visits, panels (and anything else you might think of!), please complete the form below.