Finding Your Inner Creative and Giving Back

Local “maker” Norman Reid hopes to use his experience as a writer and a political scientist to help provide the public with information on mental health resources

The elephant photo used on Norman Reid's book cover, Being Elephant: How It Feels to be Jumbo.

Local “maker” Norman Reid hopes to use his experience as a writer and a political scientist to help provide the public with information on mental health resources

Why do we tend to stop finding outlets for our creativity as we get older? In the culture of instant gratification that we live in, it’s so easy for us to consume art in every form. Why not also look for an outlet to create? Norman Reid of Delaplane is an amateur photographer turned longtime civil servant turned lifelong maker of things, who could teach us all a thing or two about cultivating our creative side. 

Norman Reid

Reid, born and raised in Ohio, holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois-Urbana. After working with the Illinois state legislature for several years, he had a three-decade career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he specialized in rural economic and community development, both as a researcher and a public policy executive.

During his time with the USDA, Reid wrote dozens of books, technical articles, and monographs on subjects such as economics, anti-poverty programs, computer science, and more. “I’ve always enjoyed writing,” Norman said. “At the Department of Agriculture, I had to write so much and so clearly that I practiced it a lot. I probably ended up publishing around 150 things.”

In 2000, Reid had the opportunity to go on an African safari trip with a family member and didn’t let the opportunity pass him by. “We were there for 3 weeks in Kenya and Botswana mostly,” Reid said. “It was a fantastic experience seeing the animals from a vehicle right there with you. It was a time in my life that I remember vividly even today, 20 years later.”

Upon returning from his trip, Reid was inspired to write a book sharing his experiences in Africa. He set to work writing and ended up writing several essays, poems about the animals, the experiences, and people he met on his trip. “I had maybe 20 different essays and poems that I put together but I never quite got it out. Recently, I dragged out a poem I wrote about elephants and showed it to my wife and she said it would make a great children’s book,” Reid said. “So I went back to my photographs I took while on that safari and picked out ones that matched the stanzas of the poem.”

In March of 2021, he released Being Elephant: How It Feels to be a Jumbo. The poem weaves an intriguing tale of what it’s like to live the free life of a jumbo in the remaining unspoiled land of their birth. In addition, Reid also wrote The Hero of Gucci Gulch: A Capitol Hill Mystery based on his experience as a political scientist and someone who worked on Capitol Hill. He is now in the process of writing the sequel to that book.

After leaving the USDA, Reid moved from Falls Church to a farm near Delaplane in Fauquier County where he now resides with his wife and two cats. It was at this house that Reid picked up an additional creative hobby — woodworking.  “The house has a large basement that wasn’t being used for anything that I turned into a woodshop,” Reid said. “I added tools over time. I made a four-poster bed, a little cabinet called a sugar chest, and more. Then, my best friend and I decided to start a business called Shenandoah Toolworks.”

Shenandoah Toolworks makes high-quality woodworking tools at an affordable price. “We purchase the metal portions from local foundries and local producers, and we turn the handles ourselves,” Reid said.

Reid’s advice for channeling your creative side? Journaling. “I journal every day. It’s a time I look forward to, “ Reid said. “I need to express myself in words. It’s probably the most important thing I do during any given day, even if the words don’t go anywhere.”

In addition to all of his creative outlets, Reid serves on the Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services Board. “I have always been interested in public service, I specifically chose to work for the government because I wanted to be of service to the nation,” Reid said. “RRCSB is a broad-based community organization that is working on some very difficult public policy issues related to mental health, in particular, and substance abuse issues as well. This is something I have a deeply personal interest in and I am gratified to have the opportunity to give back to the community. I am hoping to use my experience as a writer and a political scientist to help get good public information out about the services that RRCSB provides.”

For more information about Reid’s books, photographs, and other products, visit 

His books are available on

Hannah Samlall
About Hannah Samlall 25 Articles
Hannah Samlall is a graduate of Virginia Tech. In 2017, she moved home from The Big Apple to partner with her sister to launch Waterloo Street, a digital marketing agency that offers social media management and content writing for small businesses and entrepreneurs. When she's not working, you can find her exploring outdoors, whipping up a delicious meal or snuggling with her kitten, Dunks.

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