Tell us about yourself and your books.:
I was born and raised on a farm in rural, east-central Kansas, just north of Emporia. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1967, and spending a period "on the road" (as a laborer, construction worker, topographic survey assistant, laundryman, hotel management assistant–and much later as a disaster relief worker, movie stand-in and retail clerk), I served overseas with the American National Red Cross in Vietnam, Thailand, Germany and England. Upon returning to the U.S., I took graduate studies and taught English at Emporia State University. Eventually I became an information specialist with the Johnson County Library in Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Since retirement, I write full time and have formerly served as a volunteer on the editorial staff of Kansas City Voices magazine. My stories, articles and poems have appeared in numerous magazines such as Kansas Quarterly, The Midwest Quarterly, Cincinnati Poetry Review and The Kansas City Star, and I am the author of the monograph Death and Dying: Hemingway's Predominant Theme from The Emporia State Research Studies and coauthor of the book Of Youth and the River: The Mississippi Adventure of Raymond Kurtz, Sr. My next book, A Backward View: Stories and Poems, won the J. Donald Coffin Memorial Book Award from the Kansas Authors Club in 1998, and subsequent to that the 2015 book The Pebble: Life, Love, Politics and Geezer Wisdom collected 60 of my blog posts in hard copy and ebook and is available on Amazon. My newest book, And Eve Said Yes: Seven Stories and a Novella, was released from Waldorf Publishing in Oct. 2019. I've conducted numerous readings, media appearances and book signings, 1988-present, including delivering a paper at the 2007 Peaceful Coexistence Conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Other awards include the Nostalgia Poetry Award from Nostalgia Magazine and winner of a Humor and Life, in Particular 2005 Writing Contest as well as anthologized finalist in the Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition in 2019 and inclusion in the newly released Universal Oneness Poetry Anthology as well as the If It Hadn't Happened to Me anthology. My literary agent is Stephanie Hansen at Metamorphosis Literary Agency. A photo-illustrated poetry collection titled Star Chaser is forthcoming in the spring of 2020 from Anamcara Press.
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
Not that I'm aware of, but my dearest wife Dee might see that differently. Like fooling around on the internet doing "literary research" when I should be doing yard work. I basically write when time permits, or when a pressing idea pops into my head. I compose on the computer now; years ago in the beginning I wrote first drafts in longhand. My printer broke and ink costs too much anyway, so I send material to be printed as attachments on email over to UPS and they're great about accommodating me and my manuscript needs.
What authors have influenced you?
Early on, Ernest Hemingway, for many reasons (and I even ended up serving with the Red Cross in a combat zone echoing his service in WW I). I like Steinbeck too, his gritty realism. And J. D. Salinger taught me the importance of "voice" in fiction. Capote was an influence–I met him once briefly at a conference, but didn't get to visit because he was too intoxicated and they took him away. I love the short stories of Eudora Welty, again the emphasis on voice. But not to forget the poetry of Robert Frost, which grabbed hold of me at a young age. And that's only scratching the surface.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Yes, write only if you love doing it and sharing it with friends and colleagues. Don't expect to make a living at it. The only way that will happen is luck. As they say, many are called but few are chosen. There are thousands of capable and talented writers out there no one ever heard of who survive by other means. And publishing today is easier than ever; it's getting your stuff known about and read that's the tough part.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Assuming we're talking about writing, I'd say it's write what you really know. One of my mantras might be, "Live it, then write it." Another is, "Write of yesterday for the reader of tomorrow because life today makes no sense." Otherwise, in Vietnam, it would have been "Keep your damn head down." Or, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure–prophylactics, people! 😉 Oh, and read, read, read, all you possibly can.
What are you reading now?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. The Kansas City Star every day (but I don't recommend it). The Book of Mormon (just finished it this past weekend). Notes to the Man Who Shot Me by John Musgrave (excellent war poetry). The United States of Trump: How the President Really Sees America by Bill O'Reilly (truly a "fair-and-balanced" portrait and analysis of the man). Time magazine (some good here, some bad there). Dispatches from Kansas by Tom Parker (superb stylist).
What’s your biggest weakness?
Procrastination. Procrastination. Procrastination. But often I put off worrying about it! 😉 That and getting pulled off task by invitations from friends to do something else.
What is your favorite book of all time?
That's truly an impossible question to answer factually. There are so many competing. And so many different genres. I'm flummoxed! But I'd venture to say The Catcher in the Rye and the Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway and the Complete Poems of Robert Frost would have to always rank near the top.
What has inspired you and your writing style?
Good teachers, in both high school and later at the university level. My mother's encouragement (she'd been a teacher and wrote well herself). My aunt Gladys DeNio's poetry. Hemingway's adventures. Erskine Caldwell's earthy narratives. Copying John Updike paragraphs just to capture the rhythm (he once told me jokingly to quit or I'd hear from his lawyer). Practice and revision. Input from good fellow writers. Superb mentors like the late professors Keith Denniston and Green D. Wyrick and fellow authors like Edna Bell-Pearson.
What are you working on now?
Updating the poetry manuscript Star Chaser, which has been accepted by Anamcara Press for publication in the spring of 2020. And completing the memoir manuscript, Blossoms on the Vine, which is difficult because many of the people I'm writing about, and were important in my life, are now deceased. Then too, I've resumed occasional blogging on Goodreads.com, which takes thought and creative energy away from the memoir. So it goes.
What is your method for promoting your work?
Good question. I've tried a number of different approaches without any major success because the competition is horrendous out there. Emailing those who might help spread the word. Facebook. Entering contests (I've won some but wasted a lot of entry fees). LinkedIn. Readings. Interviews on the air and on paper. Blogging with some posts about my writing. Acquiring an agent and a traditional publisher that does assist with promotion. And introducing my work publicly through new people I meet (even like waiters, nurses, barbers, etc.). I recently dined with an old poet friend of many years who has tried everything–tours, interviews, public readings, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, both traditional and self publication, podcast, and book reviews here and there. What works best, I asked him. Just luck, he replied.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Completing the memoir and seeing the poetry book launched. Then getting my old novel manuscript published finally–did have an offer, but wasn't happy with the terms. And wrapping up two more novel manuscripts that are in progress on the back burner. If I'm still living after all that, I may go back to mainly writing poetry.
How well do you work under pressure?
I probably do my best work that way. Deadlines break the procrastination and incentivize me to get moving and dig deeply in thought. I can't say I enjoy pressure exactly, but I must admit it really helps production.
How do you decide what tone to use with a particular piece of writing?
The genre often dictates that. Or, in fiction the character and voice have to fit together properly. So I experiment with finding what works best. The point of view, of course, makes a huge difference in tone also. Ultimately, I write something, let it cool, later read it aloud to myself and simply ask the question, "Does this sound right?" Do all the parts work together? They either do or they don't. If they don't, I go searching further.
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