When I was in college there was this bar that had bouncers who took turns playing St. Peter. They stood outside the door going: You. You. You. Not you. The whole idea was so ghastly to me (for a variety of reasons, not least of which was that I knew I’d be the one person in whatever group I was with who’d be left on the wrong side of the velvet rope) that I swore I’d never, ever subject myself to anything like that. And yet… I became a writer. For those who aren’t afflicted … Continue reading The Decider
When I was an adolescent, I read novels voraciously, and the genre of sword-and-sorcery fantasy appealed to me most. It combined supernatural magic, an element seeded into countless cultures and religions, with heroic warriors and monsters, and it allowed me to escape the doldrums of my unremarkable suburban environment. As I grew out of my teens into adulthood, a different type of fantasy fiction began to appeal to me: the horror genre. Writers like Stephen King and Clive Barker wrote engrossing novels that, on the surface, seemed like realism, but they typically possessed a paranormal … Continue reading The Best Sex I Never Had
In high school I was an associate editor for our school’s art and lit magazine, Pen & Ink. We’d meet weekly to review submissions under the tutelage of our faculty advisor, whose love and gift for teaching English had him engaging both special-ed ninth grade English students and seniors in AP Humanities. He’d sit back and respectfully listen to our staff’s thoughtful conversations about the submissions, jumping in every now-and-then with a suggestion or to humorously call out overly indulgent poetic language like, “…lurked menacingly on the penumbra.” In our editorial process, votes for submissions fell … Continue reading Rejection
I wasn’t a natural writer but I always wanted to be one. Born in New York City, I soon moved to Providence, Rhode Island with my family and then to Washington, D.C. where my father began working for the C.I.A. After a few more years, we moved to Germany with his job. I attended boarding schools in Switzerland and Concord, Massachusetts. I had a rooting nature like a tree, but with all the moving around I got turned into a rolling stone. I found life on the road exhilarating, painful, and confusing. I depended on … Continue reading Getting Over Myself by Jane Barnes
Recently scanning for a train schedule, I was surprised to discover an advertisement for “The much-anticipated Amtrak Writer’s Residency.” Amtrak as literary inspiration? Well their menu does include “Fresh Sandwich du Jour,” “Salmon with Chablis Sauce” and “Chicken Apple-Maple Sausage.” And, it seems that 24 writers can taste such treats while riding the literary rails and writing about it. Amtrak will pick up the tab for a long distance, round-trip ticket and provide the lucky writer with a private sleeper car complete with its own desk, bed and window to document America’s passing scene. Winning … Continue reading All Aboard!
The poet/novelist James Dickey – who, among his many accomplishments, wrote the novel, Deliverance, is said to have once claimed that reading detective fiction was like opening a gift by first eating the excelsior. Dickey was really onto something with his cruel remark, but perhaps no one remembers excelsior (I’m assuming a quorum of readers who remember Deliverance). Excelsior, for those fortunate enough not to know, was material made from thinly sliced curled wood shavings and used to provide packing for fragile merchandise. It was later replaced – within living memory of some of us … Continue reading Excelsior!
The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. So it’s time to come clean: I have an addiction to notebooks. I am a danger to myself if left in a stationery store. I buy them whether or not (most often not) I’ve filled the ones from previous purchases. There is an entire box in the closet of my study that is nothing but empty notebooks. This peccadillo is perhaps made all the more shameful considering I do most of my “real” writing on a computer. I am a creature of the … Continue reading Cultivating Obsession
[frame align=”right”][/frame]I missed the most recent big weather event in Virginia, the wall of wind storms that swept through several states, tearing down trees and power lines. As a child spending summers in the Mississippi Delta I was always perplexed when my uncle and aunt, cotton and soy bean farmers, would demand immediate quiet the minute the weather report came on the TV. A solemn silence, an almost sacred dread and expectation, filled the room. In recent visits, I have noticed a square computer like machine, called a data transmission network that relays weather pattern … Continue reading Derecho
[frame align=”right”][/frame]This morning I sit on my porch and gaze across the bottom lands and pastures of the James River valley. I open up my journal, swipe my fingers across its soft green leather cover, the embossed Celtic design like a brail pattern slides beneath my fingertips. A green satin ribbon curls in the journal’s crease. The pages measure five and a half inches wide from the seam of the spine to the paper’s edge. No more, no less. Lined. For a long time I would not write in journals with lines. Lines forced me … Continue reading On Keeping a Journal