A little gloomy?

Not at all. That a writer can take these little things called words and connect with people, make a difference with people; that he or she can arouse, inspire, infuriate, soothe, cajole, motivate, depress, or elevate others is one of the magical joys that arises from this flow of words out of the writer's heart and mind and into the permanence of some medium, be it paper, computer screen, or the bark on a tree. The cyclical highs and lows of either the publishing world or the writer's broader world of home, family, employment, or government have never been able to squelch that impulse to go on the record, to say I was here, and this is what happened. Nor does it matter whether that "record" was poem, play, novel, newspaper article, scholarly tome, or the quiet anonymity of the unpublished diary. We writes, you see, because we gots to.


How often do you write?

I write every day, usually from around seven in the morning until mid-afternoon. There is an occasional day off, but I've found that the only way this stuff gets done is through a pretty rigid discipline. Inspiration without discipline is kind of like being a baseball catcher without a mitt.

Do you use a computer?

Yes, although I've come to that only recently. A typewriter has been part of my life since high school, but I've also been known to sit down with tablet and pencil, even a napkin in a restaurant (very rough draft).

Do you do much revising?

I don't think my writing really took off until I finally learned how to do that. It's very hard at first; eventually, it's a great deal of fun. You can dive into a story almost as though you yourself were there, but you no longer have to worry quite so much about all the particulars of plot, character, scene, all of those things.

What is the publishing atmosphere like today?

It's very tough and very competitive for short fiction. There are only a handful of truly commercial outlets that pay anything, so any story you submit is competing against hundreds, if not thousands of other stories. Some hundreds of small journals exist, but they pay nothing, offer little editorial help, and don't cultivate their writers at all. Some prestige can attach to being published in some of these journals and that can help on down the road, but prestige rarely pays the rent. On the other hand, those hundreds of journals and magazines (both on- and offline) are there, and they do provide publication opportunities for many, many writers.

What about book publishing?

It's a similar situation. The major publishers are so oriented toward the financial bottom line that books that don't appear to have an immediate marketing hook don't make it, even books by fairly "big name" writers. These writers, thus, find themselves published by excellent, if relatively unknown, publishers, the kind that used to publish work by totally unknown or new writers. You can see the ripple effect here: these unknowns, then, either don't get published, or else they get published by reputable publishers so small that very little money is involved, nor is there much in the way of a marketing or advertising push for these books.

Would you recommend writing as a career choice?

As a career choice? No. Many writers today teach as a way of making a living, which is itself a very dangerous situation from an artistic point of view. But teaching is not writing, and most writers write simply because they have to. You discover it; you fall into it; you find you can do it; and you find there is nothing else at all that you'd really rather do. That's a way of life and not a career. Most writers usually do one of two things. Either they will write and structure various kinds of employment around their writing so that they can live, or else they'll work out some kind of profession and then build the writing into the life as best they can. No matter how you look at it, though, you're still trying to serve two masters (not to mention family, spouse/​partner, your love of rock concerts, or your skydiving passion) so none of it is ever going to be easy.

Selected Works

I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes a dark crime story set in a rural, somewhat remote part of Maine in a time when the radicalism of the nineteen-seventies was sweeping the country.
Ellen DeLay, an upstanding citizen of Quillifarkeag, Maine, suddenly and unpredictably leaves her happy, twenty-five year marriage for a lonely cabin deep in the Maine woods, where she makes a living dressing hunters' kill - bears, moose, deer. It seems an idyllic life, punctuated only now and then by rifle fire as she shoots into the air to scare off cheeky teens who come to taunt "the crazy woman."
A small-town lawyer in the middle of a gruesome murder case finds salvation in the world of a homeless woman and her daughter.
A young woman's morning walk through her small town finds her immersed in a small tragedy, an indifferent government, and the "science gone mad" of her best friend's husband. Quirky, goofy, nutty - yes, but a gentle look as well at some of the values that keep us from falling off the planet
A hint of generally true autobiography, this piece is part of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill's "How I Became A Writer" series.
Quillifarkeag is a state of mind, one marked by innocence and regret, by guile and sympathy. The people there will let you into their lives - but not very far. Go too far inside and things start to echo, people get close. Honesty becomes negotiable. Bare all and someone might still say, "Were you naked or nude?" It's an important distinction. In a small place like Quilli the naked truth is hurtful. The nude truth is not so bad.

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