Hi, my name is Benji Smith, and I’m the Founder and Chief Everything of Shaxpir! I live in Portland, Oregon with my amazing wife Emily, and our two dogs and two cats.
I’ve always been a storyteller.
As a kid, I was always acting in local community theater shows, school plays, and church talent shows. And throughout my entire childhood, I loved writing short stories about kids with magical powers, going through portals into mysterious dimensions, and having hilarious adventures with unusual creatures.
I studied theatre and creative writing in college, but after graduating, I got interested in computer science, computational linguistics, and machine-learning algorithms. I spent most of my career doing research and development for startups, with all sorts of crazy interesting projects (for example: designing a facial-recognition system with thermal infrared cameras, to detect stress and anxiety in human subjects).
For me, creating computer software is like building a crystal palace in the sky… an intricate beautiful machine, made entirely out of thoughts, where people from all over the world can interact with one another in ways never before imaginable… It’s a unique kind of creative pursuit, and I’ve loved every moment of it.
But in the back of my mind, I’ve always ached to tell stories again, to write novels and make movies, to draw pictures and create fantasy worlds again. And I always hoped my career as a research scientist and software engineer would someday give me the freedom to return to my roots as a storyteller.
In 2012, when Emily and I were on our honeymoon in Spain and Italy, our cruise ship hit the rocks and sank into the sea. We didn’t know it yet at the time, but this experience would completely change our lives. I wrote a book about our experience, and Emily (a professional classical musician) composed an album of original music.
As human beings, telling stories and making music are among the most basic primal instincts. Since our ancestors started gathering round campfires tens of thousands of years ago, stories and songs have been the most essential way that we make meaning from the chaos of the world, and pass the lessons of our lives on to future generations.
Writing that book was a wake-up call for me. It felt so incredible to stretch my skills as an artist again, to submerge myself back into a world of metaphor and linguistic imagery, to work with an editor on my prose craftsmanship, and to take such pride in the turning of a phrase or the satisfying rhythm of a sentence.
But the best part was telling a story that really meant something to me.
When that project was complete, I wanted to help other authors bring their stories into the world too. So I created Shaxpir as a way to give writers the best possible platform for creating their stories. And now I’m creating this online community as a way of bringing writers together for mutual support and collaboration.
This is my life’s work. I hope you love it.