Montana State University

'Double Take:' Connolly's unusual viewpoint is at heart of new memoir

October 13, 2009 -- Carol Schmidt, MSU News


Kevin Connolly, a 2008 graduate of MSU and an X-Games athlete, is often seen around Bozeman on his skateboard. HarperStudio has released Connolly's "Double Take: A Memoir" to starred reviews. The book, which follows on the heels of Connolly's photography exhibition, traces Connolly's experiences growing up legless in Helena and travelling the world as a photographer. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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It's not your average college graduate who within two years of leaving the university has his memoirs published by a major publisher and exhibits his photos in top galleries across the world. But then, Kevin Connolly has never been average.

HarperStudio, a division of publisher Harper Collins, today released Connolly's memoir, "Double Take," to glowing advance reviews.

In the book, the 23-year old 2008 Montana State University graduate writes with grace and honesty about growing up in Helena as a legless child and his adventures and observations traveling the world. During those travels, Connolly, who has degrees in film and photography, snapped more than 30,000 photos of the reactions of people world-wide when they first saw him. Those photographs were collected into "The Rolling Exhibition," which has already netted Connolly an appearance on NPR, the "20-20" television show, as well as exhibits as the Smithsonian and Kennedy Center.

At that point, Connolly was offered several cable and reality television shows.

"I said no," Connolly recalled. "I couldn't see me being the next Jon and Kate. It's not my bag."

Connolly's said his ultimate vision was writing a book.

"The book was the logical endpoint of 'The Rolling Exhibition,'" Connolly said before he left his home in Bozeman to launch his book tour. "The book was really my thing and was the product of a couple years work."

Connolly said he did not have a ghost writer help him -- although he made many trips to New York to work with his editor.

"All of it is mine," Connolly said. "That was a really big thing with me from the outset, although, I went out to New York to work with my publisher for about two-and-a-half months. They even let me help design the end papers and consulted with me on the cover."

Connolly acknowledges that it is unusual for a first-time writer to have so much involvement with the publisher.

"Basically, I just asked them if I could be involved," Connolly said, crediting Bob Miller, head of the Harper Studio imprint, with allowing him so much input. "I think my question is so out of the blue that they said yes."

The process yielded good advance reviews.

"Beautiful, revealing, and stimulating," wrote Publishers Weekly in a starred review.

"A courageous, immensely rewarding chronicle expressed in arresting words and pictures," Kirkus Reviews said, also in a starred review.

Connolly said that while writing the book he worked hard to be as honest as possible about what it was like to grow up as a legless child in a typical Montana family.

He writes with simplicity and humor about childhood and becoming an X-Games caliber skier. An MSU international exchange first took him abroad to New Zealand. He has since traveled in more than 17 countries via student travel tickets and a battered skateboard.

He notes that the first half of the book is relating his basic life story, but the second half of the book he plumbs the emotional depths of what it is like to be on the receiving end of international double-takes, and falling in love with and then parting from his girlfriend.

"I approached it as a storyteller," he said. "If you are going to tell a story about the Rolling Exhibition I had to be honest. I tried to write it in the best way I could. "

Connolly said he is a private person, but felt he had to be as honest as possible or it wasn't worth doing.

"I really had a tough time writing at points," Connolly conceded. "Now that it's out there in print, I don't care so much because it's not my own any longer. But, as a 23-year-old male, it is emasculating to be emotionally naked as I am in the book. At the end of the day, I had to grow up about everything."

Connolly is also unflinching, humorous and loving in his heartfelt portrayal of his family, including his parents, Brian and Marie of Helena, and his two sisters. In some ways his parents, who gave him unqualified love and support but also raised Connolly to be an independent and strong, are heroes of the book. One of Connolly's sisters, Shannon, is currently an MSU nursing student.

"They like how they're portrayed," Connolly said. "Whether or not they are going to want to step out into the spotlight now, it's completely up to them."

Connolly's book has been selected as a featured book at Barnes and Noble booksellers chain. Connolly is now on a book tour that will take him to book stores across the country and several college campuses in the next couple of months. He is scheduled to be featured in a profile in an upcoming "Outside" magazine, just for starters.

In his rare spare moments, Connolly is also working with two local firms -- Spark Research and Development and Twenty 6 Products -- on technologies to help him locomote in new ways. However, when he's back home in Bozeman, he is still a familiar sight on local streets, skateboarding to his familiar haunts.

"I'm grateful for all of this, but it isn't going to change who I am," Connolly said. "I still hang out with the same folks I used to. I still have the relationships I had for the last four years at college."

For more information on Connolly and his projects, go to his Webpage: www.kevinmichaelconnolly.com

For more information on "Double Take: A Memoir," go to: http://theharperstudio.com/authorsandbooks/kevinconnolly/

Kevin Connolly, connollyphotography@gmail.com