Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Hi folks,

Well, we’re just finishing up our final week on the current session of my online novel-writing class, “Les Edgerton’s Bootcamp for Writers,” and find ourselves with the rarity of a couple of openings. Our next session will begin on October 30 and consists of a ten-week session, with the probability of taking a week off sometime during the term to recharge batteries.
With some of my online writing class members in Arizona.

This is a call for new class members. Not sure how many openings we’ll have as we offer vacancies first to our auditors.

The basics are the course costs $400 and it’s limited to ten people. The $400 is nonrefundable, as if a person quits during the session it would be impossible to fill that vacancy. As this is my primary source of income, it would be detrimental for myself and my family. It’s very rare that anyone opts out once begun, however. In over five years, there have only been two.

We’ve had a remarkable history of success. Nearly everyone over the past five years who has become a part of our class has gone on to being legitimately published and/or secured a good literary agent. In fact, that is our only goal—to become legitimately published.

Below is a letter I posted from a student who has since gone on to publish her fourth book to critical acclaim, impressive sales, and award nominations. Her first three novels were written in class. Her words are as true today as they were several years ago and will give you a former classmate’s take on the class.

From a student:
We just started a new session for my ongoing internet class on novel writing. We’ve got a couple of new students this time—most writers keep re-upping each time but occasionally one or two will drop out for various reasons: demands of a new job not allowing them to commit the considerable time that is required to participate, needing time off to address the notes their new agent just gave them for the novel he signed, and so on. Most just keep on, even after they’ve gotten an agent and/or sold their novel, and begin writing a new one. Almost all who stick out the entire session come back. The ones who quit usually quit fairly soon into the class. It’s not for everyone. Nobody holds anybody’s hand and every single one of us is focused on but one thing—helping each other write a novel that’s publishable. It’s a tough game and not for everyone.

From Les:
I try to warn people who are thinking of joining us, how tough the class is, but I know from past experience that even so forewarned, at least some are going to be in for a shock when they see that we really don’t hold hands, pat people on the back for minimum efforts, or overlook writing that doesn’t work. I’m not cruel (at least I don’t think so) nor are any of the oldtimers in class, but most new folks haven’t been exposed to a class like ours. The truth is, most writers who haven’t had a class like ours have been praised in other classes or most likely, has been in classes that use the “sandwich” method of teaching. You know—that deal where the teach applies a bit of praise, then a bit of criticism, and then a bit of praise. Well, that ain’t our shtick. Not even close. The comments we all provide on everyone’s work fit one definition only. They’re honest.

This isn’t to be mean or to act like we’re the only folks around who know what good writing is. Except… we do know. I’m not aware of any other class out there with the kind of track record ours enjoys. Virtually every writer who stays the course with us ends up with a top agent and/or a book deal. That doesn’t happen in a single ten-week session. About the earliest anyone has earned an agent or book deal in our class has been about a year. And, that’s reasonable.
The thing is, our writers don’t expect things to be easy.

From a student several years ago:
Hi ________. Since Les opened the floor for comments from the "class veterans" I'm chipping in with my two cents. I have a file cabinet filled with stuff I sent Les and then needed asbestos gloves to take the paper off the printer. When I started this journey, I'd never taken an English class past high school. (I was pre-med in college) I figured I love to read, so how hard can it be? Okay, quit laughing at me. Clearly, when I wrote my first version of my first novel, I had no idea about story structure, POV, any of that. I figured I'm pretty articulate and therefore I can write?

Les quickly set me straight. All of this is to point out that we've all been on the receiving end of Les' brutal honesty. I will find some of the comments he made on my work and post them but phrases like "throwing up in my mouth now" and "bury this so deep in the yard no one ever finds it" are seared into my brain and I don't have to look to find those!!! The point is, I took other classes before I met Les and the teachers were kind and gentle and never told me I sucked. If it weren't for Les, I'd still be churning out awful drivel that makes people want to throw up instead of trying not to throw up while I wait to see if my agent is able to sell my book. I would never have gotten an agent without Les. So hang in there. Listen to everything he says and if it doesn't make sense, ask away.

The novel that I am currently trying to sell has been a work in progress since 2009. The first time Les saw it he sent it back and told me to re-write the WHOLE thing!!! My character was a wimp. She sat back and let things happen to her. I argued a little, rewrote a little and then moved on to another book. After a year, I went back and reread it and saw the truth. It was awful. So I took a deep breath and started over. Page one. First sentence. Re-wrote the entire thing. It took a full year and then I revised it again. It's definitely a process. But once you get the Inciting incident and the outline steps down pat, it's a whole lot easier. Trust me!!! And you'll never graduate completely. A few months ago, Les and I went head-to-head on one single passage. I was trying to be lazy and take the easy way out. He called me on it and I resubmitted three or four weeks in a row, revisions on the same passage. I was sure my classmates were so sick of it they were going to stick needles in their eyes rather than read it again! But in the end, the passage rocked!! So hang in there!!!! It'll get better. (Note: This novel sold and the writer is currently working on her fifth novel.)

From Les:
I figured I’d let some of the class members give you their take on our class. They don’t hold back and they all have tough skins. They will all tell you the same thing. It isn’t a class for sissies or for those who need their hands held or lots of pats on the back. Becoming published is hard, hard work and isn’t an undertaking for sissies. To get there, our students know they have to put on their Big Boy and Big Girl pants and expect to work harder than they ever have in their lives—and to never, ever “settle” their standards of excellence.

Class members come from all over the globe. We’ve had students from the UK, Ireland, Taiwan, Spain, all parts of the U.S., Canada, Australia, Luxembourg and many other places. We work with writers in virtually every genre on the bookshelves.

The way class works is that the class is divided into two equal groups. We used to have just one group, but it got to be too much for many students. In the past, everybody in the class was required to read everybody else’s work each week and provide in-depth comments on everyone’s work. That meant they had to read nine other class members’ work and deliver intelligent commentary on each one. We’ve since evolved to a more manageable number where now each class member reads and delivers comments on just four other classmates’ work. I provide comments on everybody’s work and that’s why the class is limited to only ten. With ten writers, I can give each person the quality of time and analysis each deserves.

Each week begins on Sunday evening, when people can begin submitting their weekly pages from Sunday until Thursday. If it’s a new writer to the class, they are allowed to submit their first five pages of their novel, plus an outline which consists of five statements and a total of 15-20 words. Oldtimers in class call this “inciting incident hell.” If the outline isn’t working and their beginning doesn’t represent the inciting incident as provided in their outline, they are required to keep submitting each week until it does. Our feeling is if they haven’t thought through their novels sufficiently and provided a publishable novel structure (evidenced by the outline), then they most likely don’t have a novel ready to be written and to simply plunge ahead will almost invariably lead to an unfinished novel. We don’t want that.

Once they’ve been okayed for the beginning, from thereafter they can submit up to eight pages per week, along with the others in class.

Time zones don’t matter. Everybody’s work, including everyone’s comments and my own comments on each person’s work each week is posted on the class site and folks can go to it any time of the day or night. Class members can begin sending back their comments on each others’ in their group from Sunday through the following Sunday, when it begins again. Although, in practicality, most members send in their work each week on Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s like being in an “on-ground” class in that everything said or done in class is seen by everybody.

We do have a chat function and people use it all the time, even though they’re in different time zones. One of the best things about this class is that we have lots of oldtimers who know from their own experience what works in a novel and what doesn’t and more importantly… why it works or doesn’t work. It’s like having a group of seven or eight other professionals helping you with your own novel. Probably at any given time in class, there will be four or five who already have had a novel or several published as a result of being in class, so it’s a really rarified group. And, if you think that you couldn’t operate in a situation like this because you’re a beginner, that simply isn’t the case here at all. Nearly every single person in each class began just the way you did, as a rank beginner. And, they remember and they have complete empathy for your situation, if you’re a beginning writer.

It’s not a situation of simply saying, “This doesn’t work.” Myself and others in class will surely say that, but we then let you know why it didn’t work and give you solid suggestions on how to make it work. We collectively have a nurturing nature and all of us want the newcomer to succeed just about as badly as that writer wants to.

If you are still interested but still feel intimidated, I think if you simply look at how the class works, you’ll quickly see how you’ll fit in comfortably. Since we’ve got one week left in class, for anyone who would like to see up close and personal how we work as a class, I’d be delighted to give you auditor status for our last week. Besides class members, we also have an auditor function which works the same as it does in a “regular” college class. You’re admitted to class and can view every single thing we’re doing and the entire class session is archived and easy to access. Normally, the cost of auditing the class is $50, but for our last week, for those interested in simply getting a look at how we work, just email me at butchedgerton@comcast.net and let me know and I’ll have our class administrator, Holly, get you on board asap.

I know there are no doubt a lot of questions you may have. Please feel free to contact me at any time and ask me anything you’d like.

From past experience, when we’ve had openings like this, they go quickly, so if you are interested, please get in touch, okay?

For those interested in such things, here are a few of my own qualifications to teach writing.

MFA in Writing from Vermont College
Taught writing for the UCLA Writer’s Program
Taught writing via Skype for the New York Writer’s Workshop
Writer-in-Residence for three years for the University of Toledo
Writer-in-Residence for one year for Trine University
Taught writing classes for St. Francis University
Taught writing classes for Phoenix College
Taught writing for Writer’s Digest Online Classes
Taught writing classes for Vermont College
Published 18 books, including craft books on writing, novels, sports books, YA novel, historical nonfiction book, humor nonfiction, black comedy novel, noir, thrillers, literary and existential fiction.
Dozens of short stories published in such publications as The South Carolina Review, High Plains Literary Review, Aethlon, Flatmancrooked, Murdaland and many others.
Many private clients who published books I worked with them on, including such writers as Robert Rotstein, Michelle Corasanti, Janey Mack, Maegan Beaumont and many others.
A lot of living… much of it as an outlaw…

Blue skies,


 Debut novel from Gerald O'Connor one of our class members from Ireland. Comes out in the spring--look for it and buy it!

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Hi folks,

Most of you know I'm a huge fan of a living literary legend, William Joyce. Happily, today an interview he did with Richard Godwin just came out on Richard's interview site, Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse, a must-see stop on the literary trail. Here's what William had to say:

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Quick Fire At The Slaughterhouse: Interview With William Joyce
Posted on October 16, 2016 by richardgodwin

William Joyce
William Joyce has had an intensive literary career whose vicissitudes exemplify the shallow fickleness of the industry. This is a writer who knew Norman Mailer, and who wrote a first novel, First Born Of An Ass, that baffled the reviewers, not hard given their restricted reader’s skills, and he carried on. That is what writers do especially those who challenge society. William met me at The Slaughterhouse, where we talked about his place in the American legacy and the tethering of literature by social conditioning.
What is your enduring relationship as a writer with the American legacy?
Enduring?? I don’t have enough money for next month’s rent so my relationship with the American legacy is the least of my concerns. I’m hoping to ENDURE without sleeping on the street.
But since you mentioned it, which “America” are you talking about? There’s the U.S. “America” which has misappropriated the name and there’s the continent America named after America Vespucci, an Italian cartographer.
If you’re talking about the U.S., as soon as I die–shortly– the academics will build a statue to me, and put me in the Pantheon of Buster Keaton, W.C. Fields, and Charlie Chaplin. As long as they erect an emaciated statue, I’ll be happy.
But if you’re talking about the continent America, I identify just as much with Eduardo Galeano as W.C. Fields or Henry Miller. That would also be true with another dozen Latin American and West Indian writers like Aime Cesaire, Vallejo, Rulfo, Asturias, and Jose Donoso.
To what extent do you think America and Europe now are tethered by social conditioning and a failure to appreciate breakthrough literature, if you think of the effect Henry Miller had on the literary establishment, and how much was your novel First Born an anarchic assault on those limiting sensibilities?
Well, I think the difference between now and then is that Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer had eloquent defenders. There was in Europe and the U.S. in 1935, or 1960, an aristocracy of critics who had the confidence to take on any book, no matter how low-life, and articulate its vitality. These connosseurs of what is best in the written word do not exist now.
First Born of an Ass had no such defenders. In 1989 when it came out, there were book reviewers who applauded the novel but no one who really took its measure. It was “breakthrough” in the sense that it used apparent losers to define a way of life in a particular setting, the steel mill towns of Western Pennsylvania.
What also made it breakthrough was that like Tropic it disparaged the entire the entire set of bourgeoise values. Art, thrift, cleanliness, progress, education, respectability all are washed down the drain.
All of these “Breakthrough” books have another thing in common–The Body. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man, Tropic of Cancer, and First Born of an Ass never get far away from the body. If Tropic could be said to be one large stomach, First Born is nothing but one sprawling intestine. It is the world viewed from the digestive apparatus.
This is the last thing the Modern World of isms and sects wants to hear. The Bible, the Koran, the Talmud, deny the body. It is always suspect. With its unpredictability, it needs to be reigned in, harnessed, covered up. All of literary censorship is predicated upon this. If the body can be denied, it can be used as a tool to perpetuate profits and a slice of propaganda.
The most important thing about Breakthrough Writing is that a lot of the time it is funny. And once you have people laughing, they’re going to look around and see the absurdity of their own situation. Then, they kick off their high-heels, or loosen their neckties, become slightly human. Now the writing is a threat.
A long time ago, there were men, and occasionally women, who saw all this and in a leisurely fashion wrote about the joy and insights they got from such unpredictable material. No such arbiters exist today and it is one of the reasons humans are becoming junkies at an unprecedented rate. What we have in place of excellence is the voice of the Mob. And there is hardly anything they don’t know.
Do you think that Art and literature are being increasingly repressed by social engineering and the rise of the far right and its Christianising tendencies in the US and what is the antidote?
Repression? Social Engineering?? Whatever is going on it has made people dumb. In all the countries people are so dumb it’s a wonder they’re alive.
In 1966, Roberto Rosselini, the pioneer Italian film director, said in an interview that Europe was headed toward an infantile society. We’re there now. Billions of people just waiting to be fed, no sign of life anywhere.
Look, if an educated man has the choice of eating a pizza or reading a good book, he’ll take the pizza. The pizza has taste right away whereas the good book takes work. You have to bring something to the book–desire, a sense of adventure, a willingness to explore; the reader has to have energy. Ahhh, but with the pizza you need only open your mouth. Bingo! Everything is taken care of. All you need is dollars or euros and You’re set. And dollars or euros is all that most people have. Desire was flushed long ago into the gearboxes of nasty machines.
The problem is that the wheat for the dough in the pizza is full of GMOs. The tomato sauce is loaded up with a chemical preservative to give it longer shelf life. The cheese comes from a cow that had its ass shot full of hormones to promote quicker growth of the befuddled animal.
The body doesn’t know what to do with all these chemicals. all this sludge. So the pizza just sits in the guy’s gut in various stages of putrefaction while the body tries to arrive at a verdict. When the autopsy was done on John Wayne, they found 36 pounds of feces. The great defender of law and order and he’s dragging around all this shit while 50 million people across the Earth scream, “That John Wayne, he’s my hero, he doesn’t take shit from anybody.” Well, he just happens to take a lot of shit from the whole food network which is supposed to keep him alive but in fact is responsible only to a group of shareholders.
The guy who just gobbled the pizza doesn’t care about all this. The next morning he wakes feeling pregnant when he liked to feel nice and light. He tries to relieve this bloatedness by yelling at the wife and kids but they’re bloated too and yell right back. It’s called The Great American Family. Everybody hoping to make A Stupendous Crap in the hoity-toity-ha-ha-ka-ka Craperia Room so they can go out and buy more pizzas. Papa then goes to work–usually in some office building– where anger is not permitted. At lunch in the company cafeteria, someone blames all the problems on the Commie government, a second guy says, No, it’s the Jewish bankers. A third party blames all the problems on the Armenian faggots, they’re the ones who’ve taken over the schools. The conversation has inflamed the original pizza guy. It’s tapped his adrenal gland and he rushes off to the Rest Room where if you were ever caught just resting, security would haul you off for serious questioning.
A modest bowel movement and the pizza guy feels a bit lighter. “Maybe it is those Armenian faggots” he says to the mirror as he washes his hands.
There’s always been Social Engineering going on. In 1850 Alexander Herzen said about Russia that 52 adults were waiting for the infant to plop out of the womb. If your own life’s a failure, you can always give advice. But humans prepare for this social engineering by eating a lot of ballast. That way they’re passive and can be molded this way or that way. They don’t want freedom which is what the artist represents; they want to be weighted down… with pizzas, with slogans, any kind of crap will do. Pursuing freedom takes too much work, too much vigilance. Better to be half comatose and relaxed–cool it, chill out–than all flighty, flapping one’s wings toward a distant chimera.
Whether it’s the social engineering in 1491 from Uncle Ephraim or the technological variety now, there’s always a constant. There’s something that’s inherent in humans that’s always looking for a shortcut to happiness. In 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand were looking for a shortcut to the Spice Islands so they sent explorers west in wooden ships. No spices but Indians who had lots of gold and silver. In 1849, More gold at Sutter’s Mill in California and this discovery made half the world insane at so much riches in one tiny locale. 75 years later it was liquid gold and people went mad at the thought of a model-A Ford that could power them right up to heaven. Led Zepplin has a lot to say about this. Now it’s a host of technological devices that are supposed to make people feel Connected but just a glance around and you see that people are totally disconnected. They can’t see and they can’t hear. They just poke and pray and wait for the next pizza.
So I don’t think it’s a matter of repression. Humans have been gutted by seven centuries of looking for a shortcut when paradise was often right next to them, within them. Very few have ever been willing to serve that 10 to 15 years apprenticeship that would have taught them contentment and often ecstasy. They’d rather buy a pill by that name.
What is called art or literature is nothing more than a record of an individual’s participation in the comedy called life. Language has been so reduced in its resonance that words are now taken literally. Comedians in the U.S. no longer enter college campuses because they say students take everything literally. That means desire is gone. The body has retreated into a shell. Dead at 18, waiting for the teacher to get them down the road to the next Holiday Inn. The far right or far left or Christian evangelists are just examples of polemicized mobs who take everything literally. Who are ready to kill if they don’t get their daily umbilical transfer of pizza. All the groups, when they see that pizza, smoking from the oven, scream, “AWESOME!”
The antidote??? Hide.
How would you introduce your work to a new readership?
Well, there’s a direct tie-in with your previous questions.
Given the quagmire the Earth is in now and the fact that most countries are police states run by corporations, if I wanted readers I’d have to find rebels, people fed up. This has already happened. How did you and I meet? Through Les Edgerton. And who is Les Edgerton?
Well, he’s more than a rebel. He’s put his body on the line. He’s done time. He’s worked the streets which means he knows what it takes to get a job done. And he’s not going to be fooled by rhetoric–he’s not living out of his head. He’s also done the hard reading; he can decipher the difference between art and the con job called Prize Winners. He’s not going to be fooled by the Noir crowd, nor any genre for that matter.
The funny thing is that before I met Edgerton I dreamed of meeting Edgerton. I knew I needed someone like Edgerton, someone who as a child had rooted for the Bad Guys in movies. I knew 10 years ago I couldn’t get along with straight people.
Straight people don’t get it. They don’t get anything. They have no idea of Charlie Mingus or Miles Davis. Their parents’ idea of a good time on Saturday night was to watch Lawrence Welk on the teevee and they’ve followed suit. Straight people don’t have that little hitch in their giddyup, that savvy on what it takes to get the day started. They’re content to poke at some machine.
In the old days, there were publishers who had this sixth sense of how to get a book rolling. Barney Rosset of the old Grove Press had it. So did the guy who ran Workman’s Press in the ’70s. Carl Weissner had it Germany and if it hadn’t been for him, Bukowski would still be working for the post office, even in his grave.
But publishers like that no longer exist. That means the writer is going to have to have the street savvy to do it himself but he’s also going to have to find allies. Find his Edgertons–hustlers, conmen, out-of-work actors and actresses, people with sense and taste and a sense of humor.
For example, in 1989, when my poetry book For Women Who Moan came out, I hired two saucy hookers to go into a bar at Happy Hour time. Later, I’d walk in smiling.
“You look like you’re in a good mood,” the bartender would say.
“Yeah, my book just came out.”
“Oh, what book is that?”
So I show him the book.
“How much?”
“No charge. It’s your tip.”
“Thanks, my girlfriend’s birthday is coming up. I think she’ll like this.”
“But maybe you could show your new book to those two ladies at the end of the bar?”
The two ladies thank him and start to read–out loud, together, just as we rehearsed it. Already a few guys have meandered in and they hear this strange poem about orgasms just as their sipping their first beer. They knock down that beer tan rapido and order another. Now the place is starting to fill up. A loud argument starts up at the bar. The ladies are debating which of them has the best Moan–just as we rehearsed it.
Well, even in 1989, U.S. men had a hard time getting laid. And now, no sooner do they get off work than they hear two attractive women waxing eloquently on the female orgasm. Potential buyers are creaming their drawers at the sound of it all. Men are soon packed three-deep around the women. One, then two whisper in the women’s ears for their phone number.
“Maybe you could buy me a copy of this book,” the men are advised.
Of course the guys are going to buy the ladies a copy of For Women Who Moan. A half hour later a new crop of suckers stroll into Happy Hour at Childe Harold’s Bar and Restaurant at Dupont Circle in D.C.
Happy Hour indeed! Me and the ladies are out of there with ten books sold in an hour and a half. I leave a ten-dollar tip for the bartender and I meet the ladies down the street at the corner. I have White Out with me and I spread it through the dedications and resell the books at the next bar.
Many nights I arrive home so high I fall asleep in bed with my clothes on. I wake in the morning to ten and twenty-dollar bills all over the bed. In eight months I make more money from a poetry book than even Walt Whitman did in his best years. Poet & Writers, the trade magazine, sends out a reporter. D.C. hookers report that business has never been better.
But if you’re an enterprising author working the streets, you’d better be prepared for accidents and prepared for how to take advantage of them.
Example. One day I’m in a supermarket at the checkout line and a huge Black man pushes me aside, yelling, “Make way, make way, I have to cook for the vice president.”
I’m so dumb I’m asking myself, “Which corporation is he talking about?” Then I remember that I do live in Washington, D.C.
“Hey!” I yell at the cook, “You rudely pushed me out of the way. Maybe the Vice President would like a copy of my latest book?”
He hands me ten dollars and I inscribe For Women Who Moan to “Dan Quayle who is ready to lead our noble nation into battle.”
Two weeks later I see the cook in the same supermarket.
“Hey, what did the VP think of my poems?”
“He never got them. Mrs. Quayle got a hold of the book and won’t give it up. When I left she was reading it to somebody over the phone.”
I could have sold him another copy but I thought, “The hell with it. Let the VP and his wife fight over the Moan book.”
A month later there’s that cook again.
“Hey Cook! Did the VP ever get my book?”
“Naw, Mrs. Quayle lent it to the First Lady.”
Immediately I started having grandiose fantasies. I imagined the President of the United States plucking For Women Who Moan off the bedside table and wondering, “Have I ever known a woman who moaned?”
Then I imagined getting a call from the First Lady and it wasn’t about the quality of my poems. The Moan poem had started her hormones galloping again. I was filled with dread. What if she actually did call and I had to perform on the First Lady or watch my poetry career go down the drain? It was remote. It was absurd. But stranger things had happened to me. How would my tool, John Henry, react when he saw all that white pubic hair and heard those Secret Service men pacing outside the door of the motel room???? And what if she did Moan and the Secret Service men, thinking she was being strangled, came crashing through the door, guns blazing?? I laughed it off as silly thought; still, every time the phone rang, my stomach tightened. Finally, after a week when I didn’t hear from her I figured I was off the hook. Maybe she got George to quit thinking about bombing Iraq for an hour and he gave her a tumble. Stranger things had happened.
What I wasn’t prepared for was a knock at the door a few days later. A little guy in a white shirt and a necktie said he was from Baker & Taylor and could he talk with me. Baker & Taylor I knew to be the largest book distributor in the U.S. This rep said Baker & Taylor had received calls from bookstores requesting the Moan book and did I have a few hundred copies I could turn over to them. I asked him if anybody important had called the bookstores. Yes, he said. Who? He said he couldn’t tell me.
We did some paperwork then and it revealed I wouldn’t make much. Bookstores would get 40%, B & T 15% which would leave me with one dollar profit on each book. I paid the publisher $3.50 a book. I told him it was no deal.
In retrospect, I made a mistake. I would have had nationwide distribution and it wouldn’t have affected my street sales. My ego was just too inflamed with my independence. But what stories I got every week. So, as far as readers now, it’s just a matter of matching the right book to the right locale… and being careful of elderly ladies who have power.
Thank you William for a great interview.
This entry was posted in Author Interviews - Quick-Fires and tagged Contemporary Literature. Bookmark thepermalink.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Hi folks,

There are a few spots still left for next year's WRW. We've got some great guests who will be here. Hope to see some of y'all there!

Blue skies,

Writers Retreat Workshop 2017

May 6 - 13    San Antonio, TX

The 30th year of Writers Retreat Workshopfeatures, as always, top authors, instructors, agents and editors. Work with all our of visiting and core staff in classrooms, diagnostic groups, and 1-1 sessions.

Only 35 new and returning writers will attend...will you be one?

We're thrilled to announce our newest visiting author for 2017. Mystery and thriller novelist Reavis Wortham returns for his second year after the announcement of his newest thriller series published by Kensington Publishing (July 2017) featuring Texas Ranger Sonny Hawke. Wortham's long-running series, the Red River Mysteries, has a new installment titled Unraveled (Red River Publishing). Yes, Reavis has two series titles with two publishers. He's prolific, fabulous, and we're very excited to welcome him back to WRW.

Lisa Cron's newest book-of-craft for writers is titledStory Genius. Her first book, Wired For Story, challenged writers in a refreshing way. In the last month I've spoken to writers who are reading Cron's books and, with all the workshops and classes they've attended, Cron's "brain science" approach has opened new doors in all aspects of their Story. It's a rarity to be with Lisa in an intimate setting like WRW. If you haven't read her work, do your inner artist a favor and read them now.

Thriller novelist Daniel Palmer returns to WRW with the publication of his pre-order novel, Forgive Me, (called by early reviewers "10 stars...his best book yet"). In 2016, Daniel released his novel Constant Fear, and in early 2017 is the publication of a novel he finished along with his father, NYT bestselling author (and amazing man much missed by all), Michael Palmer titled Mercy. It's a busy year for Daniel, and we're grateful he's spending part of that time with the WRW family.

Les Edgerton is one of our most-in-demand authors, instructors, and guy we love to have around. Les' latest novel, Bomb!, is getting him even more rave reviews than the dozen plus earlier fabulous works. Joe Lansdale says, "Les Edgerton has swiftly become my favorite crime writer. Original voice, uncompromising attitude and a pure hardboiled style leap him to the front ranks of my reading list. He will become legendary.” He's already legendary in our world.

Agents and additional visiting staff yet to be announced.

Of course, our WRW core staff of the brilliant Carol Dougherty, Jason Sitzes and Lisa Willars-Pirc will be on hand to lead the way. We're welcoming back WRW family to lead Night Owl and Early Bird sessions, show folks the ropes, run diagnostic groups, and make WRW 2017 the best yet.

Visit our website for more information.

We hope to welcome you, your story, your characters, and your hopes/dreams in May.

If you're in the mood for something sooner... how about next month in Pennsylvania with a terrific line-up?

Nov 14 - 19, 2016
Haverford, PA

with David Corbett, Tex Thompson, Carol Dougherty, and Jason Sitzes
Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshopis a craft-oriented workshop with the focus squarely on your work-in-progress, and what we can do to help you unlock the potential of the story you want to tell. The workshop is limited to 25 students in order to provide each student an opportunity for several one-on-one consultations with our staff. In addition, we will offer classes for all students, optional informal sessions on a variety of topics, and diagnostic sessions in small groups, plus plenty of writing time.

Editorial and Coaching

Whether you're writing for a publisher, or writing toward your own independent goals, your story will be improved using the eyes and insight of a professional editor. Work with Jason personally and receive 1-1 conversations, audio reports, and detailed comments based on your work. This is not copy editing, and you won't receive form 'lectures'. Every word of feedback is specific to your manuscript.
You receive not only story development feedback on character, description, pacing, scene and sentence structure, but also conceptual lessons and personal feedback to last through the next project and the next. With over 15 years working with hundreds of writers through manuscript evaluations and 1-1 sessions, you'll work directly with WRW Program director/instructor Jason Sitzes. Jason specializes in teaching through explanation and example.

Also available for 1-1 instruction, reading your work, and feedback/brainstorming in your town or Austin.

 Contact us for more information and to discuss the many options available to you regardless of where you are in the writing process.
Lisa Cron
Daniel Palmer
Reavis Wortham
Les Edgerton

Thursday, September 29, 2016

LAST WORD an anthology edited by Liam Sweeny

Hi folks,

Gonna share a couple of stories I had last year in my friend Liam Sweeny's anthology titled LAST WORD. Liam asked for a suggestion of a charitable cause to donate the proceeds to and I recommended Nation Inside (www.nationinside.org) a great organization that unites national efforts to pass prison reform measures. Besides yours truly, there are stories from Jack Getze, Paul D. Brazill, David Jaggers, Steve Weddle, Court Merrigan, Todd Robinson, Angel Luis Colon, Tess Makovesky, Christopher Pimental and Gareth Spark, all fantastic noir and crime writers.

Consider picking up either a paperback or ebook copy and get both a fantastic read and an opportunity to help effect change in our prison systems.

My contribution...

Well, here it is—my annual Mother’s Day post. In reality, this won’t be an “annual” post unless I do one next year since this is the very first one. I plan to do one next year, though. If I remember...

And… I’m aware that it’s late, but I thought that appropriate, since I always forget it until about a week later, despite a loving wife (Mary) who considers it her mission in life to let me know about things like this. The only problem is, she always lets me know the day before. Like I’m expected to remember it that long!

To make up for not sending a card on time, I decided to send Mom more than just one of those syrupy Hallmark cards. This year, I sent her a cassette tape of the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring that irrepressible boyish Jimmy Stewart from my private collection. (This is the movie where he isn’t dressed up like a giant rabbit, in which he’s also irrepressible and boyish.)

Then, the second I got home from mailing it to her, I realized I’d made a grievous mistake. I hadn’t sent her the movie I thought I had. It dawned on me that I’d sent her an entirely different movie. To be exact, my copy of the classic film noir, College Girls Having Monkey Sex, Part XIV. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the one where the coed from Vassar has her boobs pointed in opposite directions and her co-star ends up with whiplash trying to treat them equally and stay on his mark. (“Mark” for you non-theater majors is the piece of tape the director places on the floor to show the actor where to stand.)


The reason I realized my faux pas, was that when I got home I thought I might want to watch a few minutes of it and couldn’t locate it and then remembered I’d labeled it… you guessed it… It’s a Wonderful Life… in the unlikely event Mary went through my collection looking for a something to watch.

I ran all the way back to the post office in hopes I could talk the mail guy into letting me have my package back, but it seems they have rules against that kind of thing. You can guess how that turned out, if you’ve ever had to deal with the United Nazi States of Mail Carriers. Guy treated me like I was the Unibomber. I called him “Cliff” and “Newman” but he didn’t get it.

I was in a sweat when I found it had already been shipped, but then I remembered Mom didn’t have a cassette player. Or a VCR. Or, even a TV. She’d sold her TV when The Ed Sullivan Show went off the air a few years ago.

The luck of the Irish!

Realizing I better do something more than send her a tape she couldn’t watch, I asked Mary if we could take her out to dinner.

“When?” she said. “On Father’s Day? That’s the next holiday.”

I laughed. (That’s it. I just laughed) Then, I said, “Of course not, silly. This weekend.”

“Only if you don’t use that name in the restaurant that you always do,” she said.

I agreed and called Mom to give her the good news. “We’d like to take you out to dinner for your big day,” I said. “Where would you like to go?”

 “Would this be an early Mother’s Day for 2011 or the late one for 2010?”

I laughed. (That’s it. I just laughed. I’ve been trained by Mary.) Then I said, “Of course not, silly. The second one. 2010. The battery in my calendar died.”

Golden Corral was her first choice, but I talked her out of that. “They’re closed,” I lied. “There was a big pileup of people on walkers and the health department closed them until they widen the ramp. Thirty-six people suffered aluminum whiplash. There are herds of lawyers everywhere and you couldn't get in even if it was open.”

She sounded skeptical, but then said her second choice was Red Lobster. This, to a guy who’s lived in New Orleans half his life and has actually eaten real seafood was like the chef at Ruth’s Chris Steak House grabbing a square hamburger down at Wendy’s on his day off, but hey, it was my mom and it was her day. I looked forward to gazing at their menu with pictures of the nine-pound lobsters on the menu and them seeing the actual three-ounce one they served. To be fair, the actual meal is the same size as the picture when you put them up next to each other.

She decided to drive down from where she lived in South Bend to our home in Ft. Wayne, a true adventure for the other drivers on the highway since she’s 88 and drives older than her actual age. You’ve heard that saying? “(Blank) drives like old people fuck? Slow and jerky.” That’s Mom. If you ever see those long lines on winding country roads where there are 117 cars trailing behind the John Deere tractor, it was Mom who taught that tractor driver how to navigate our rural byways. I suggested she might want to start out the night before to get to our place on time, but she didn’t think that was all that funny.

“You’re not too old to get a spanking, Mr. Smartmouth,” she said. Well, yes, I am, Mom. I have gray hair and arthritis and can remember when phones had dials. Besides, how are you going to catch me? I can crawl faster than you can walk. I didn’t say anything like that to her, of course. After all, she’s my mom and deserves respect. Besides, as long as I knew I could outrun her that was enough. I didn’t have to rub it in.

Before she hung up, she said, “You’re not going to use that name you always do in restaurants, are you? Because if you do, I’m not coming.”

“No, Mom, I’m not. I’m grown up, now.” Jesus! What do she and Mary do? Get together and compare notes?

She gets here, only two and a half hours past her ETA, and we all climb in the car and head for the gastronomical delights only available at national chains.

We get to the Red Lobster and I’m anticipating something on my plate that looks like a medium jumbo shrimp that they’re going to try to pawn off as a Maine lobster and we all go in. This takes awhile as we’re proceeding at Mom’s pace which is about as fast as the last day of school.

“We should hurry, Mom,” I said. “They close in only six hours.”

Mary gives me a dirty look. So does Mom, who says, “You’re not too big to get a spanking.” I consider showing her my driver’s license to show her my age as she’s obviously forgotten, but I don’t. It’s Mother’s Day. Well, not really—that was last week, but we’re operating on the theme of Mother’s Day and I want to remain true to the spirit.

I hustle ahead of them and give our name to the hostess.

When I come back, Mom says, “How long?” and Mary says, “You didn’t give them that name, did you?”

“Twenty minutes,” I say to Mom, and to Mary I just give a pained look, as if to say, “How could you even think I’d do that?”

We pass the time listening to Mom complain about the present government and ask to see a menu so she can make her choice, which is always the same. The lobster/shrimp combo. I think she just wants to check to make sure they haven’t taken either off the menu. Although, if they ran out of one, they could just serve the one that was left and tell the diner it was the missing one. Who would know?

Then, she lays a bomb on me. “I love that movie, you sent me,” she said. “I’m going over to your sister Ann’s house to watch it when I get back home.”

And then, our table is announced over the loudspeaker.

 “Donner, party of three.”

I get two dirty looks from the women I’m with.

“That’s us,” I say.

I love Mother’s Day!

I’m afraid I have some bad news. Let me take that back. I have some terrible news. Bad news is when your wife says she’s leaving you for the water softener man. This is far worse than that. This is on the level of news that she’s leaving you for the guy who lives down by the river in his refrigerator carton… and not taking the kids with her…

Okay. Ready? Sitting down? Here goes…

It’s official. Once again, I didn’t win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. How many times must I taste the bitter truth that time is running out? Once a year, I guess, until I run out…

And, what beat me out this year? The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson. You’re kidding, right? 

Here’s the description:

An exquisitely crafted novel that carries the reader on an adventuresome journey into the depths of totalitarian North Korea and into the most intimate spaces of the human heart.

It’s a book set in North Korea? Who the hell nominated this? Dennis Rodman? Who even reads books set in North Korea? Even North Koreans don’t read books set in North Korea. Well, that’s not exactly their fault—they aren’t allowed to by that sweet little cherub, Dear Leader. Speaking of cherubs, I woke up this morning with a sweet little cherub in my skivvies… Or was that a chub? 

Whatever. They both look the same.

I suspect it won because of the author’s name. He’s named after two American presidents. Jingoism at its worst.

I should have known I wouldn’t win once again after last year when they couldn’t find a single book to give the award to. There were only five million books published last year (even taking out the four million self-published autobiographies that really suck swamp water, that still leaves a million books, give or take a few hundred thousand.).

How can you not give one single book the award? Even the year the Miss America contestants were all dogs, they still gave the award to someone. Bert Parks took it himself one year. That was the year there weren’t any brunettes from Mississippi and Georgia. But, hey—they still awarded it to somebody.

I’ve had it. I’m taking serious action. I’ve just composed a strongly-worded letter to all the judges of next year’s Pulitzer committee, notifying them that I’m officially withdrawing any and all of my books from consideration. I’m sending it via Overnight Delivery, Certified Mail. That means it won’t arrive in their mail boxes until August, 2015 but I have no control over that. They’ll at least be aware of my sentiments.

And, as it happens, I’m outlining a new novel that fits all of their crappy requirements. It’s set in (some obscure country which I haven’t decided yet, but one with lots of consonants and only one vowel) and it’s about the Mayor of Cracktown. It’s about this guy who lives in a village with the Entering and Leaving signs on the same pole, and in this little shack with a bunch of farm animals of various religious persuasions living inside with him. He has no money (always a requirement of these kinds of books and which immediately makes him a genius). He has a major fight with the garda who have discovered he’s far exceeded the legal quota of farm animals allowed in a domicile, one of which he claims shouldn’t count as it’s a very pretty Merino ewe to whom he’s pledged his troth. He’s not sure what a “troth” is but it’s in a lot of Dickens’ books he read as a kid so he knows it’s important to pledge his.

In this book, I devote a lot of pages to his internalizing, which seems to be high on the list of stuff these Pulitzer folks look for. There’s one really dazzling scene where he ponders how clichés came about and fantasizes about their origins. Like that delightful phrase “blind alley” (which, I, for one can never hear too many times.). He ruminates and ponders and rumes some more and comes to the conclusion that it originally denoted a place where German shepherds congregated en masse, waiting to be hired by the seeing-challenged (PC term for blind people) and veterans with PTSD. This riveting scene takes up 26 pages, which is guaranteed to manipulate them even more than a teenaged boy’s chub during bathroom time. And, in much the same way.

One of the indoor farm animals will be a dog. His only function is to be in the book so I can use his picture on the cover and on the Intergnat. You and I know it’s just a frickin’ mutt, but people on the Intergnat have assigned a mystical aura to dogs and cats. You know, those critters that eat their own poop, cough up furballs and lick themselves all day long. We know that mostly they’re glorified door mats, but people get all weepy about them and giggly and attribute them with the same wisdom they do old Indian guys crying over some trash on Highway 10. THEY SELL BOOKS. And influence Pulitzer judges…

The protagonist will be a creepy loner who, in real life, people would take a wide berth around when they see him with his sign begging for work outside Target, but instantly make into a wise man simply because there’s a whole book centered around him and we see he thinks about pithy stuff like blind alleys. If he was so frickin’ wise why ain’t he a plumber’s assistant or a governor or something?

My protagonist is also an orphan. And a master. And the son of a dog. This makes it a sure winner.
Yes, I could easily win next year, which makes my protest even more meaningful. I know what it takes after studying these things for hours days weeks. It’s important to know who’s handing out the hardware. The judges are elderly folks who braid the hair in their noses (the women) and meet at Golden Corral to discuss the nominated books. The men on the committee treat the books nominated the same way they do the fine wines they own. They don’t open them. That would destroy their value and besides, who has to actually read the nominated book? They can learn all they want to from the glorious Intergnat. The men also have lush bushes in their noses, but they use them differently than the women (most of the women…). They weave them cleverly around their noggins kind of like the comb-overs aging sportscasters do. Along with a few well-placed strands from the ear hairs.

This is the real secret as to why my book never gets nominated. I labored for years thinking they actually read the books. Don’t laugh—I bet you know at least one person in your own circle who thought the same thing. So maybe you knew, but are you willing to say that all of your friends wear those helmets and rode the short bus to h.s. and took all A.P. classes? So—cut me a break here.

The trick to getting on these judges’ radar is to effectively utilize the Intergnat. Most of us writers have been sold a bill of goods about what the ‘Gnat does. Social media doesn’t sell books. It doesn’t sell squat. It doesn’t sell books—it sells social media. No one cares about your stupid book on social media. They pretend to… so you’ll buy their stupid book. Writers who can’t sell books have one problem—they write crappy books. Yakking about them all day long on social media sells three books total. That’s it. And that’s to trolls who are burning to write one-star reviews on it. When social media sells books, let me know. Otherwise, lay down by your dish with your butt-licking dog.

But, Pulitzer Prize judges do look at the Intergnat. All day long. It’s why they don’t have time to actually read the books themselves. Too busy Facebooking each other or Twittering about “that wonderful book about North Korea Dennis Rodman likes so well.” Think about this. 1. Dennis Rodman picture with Dear Leader was on the “Gnat” one million, three hundred thousand and sixty-nine times last year. 2. A book set in North Korea won the Pulitzer. Make the connection, dummy! This ain’t nuclear physics!

So, if I weren’t about to withdraw from consideration, here’s what I’d do. Get me a babe to do my networking for me. As my pretend girlfriend, Lo Hai Qu so eloquently pointed out—“Blogbitches rule, blogdicks drool.” Okay. I accept that. If I was going to remain involved in the competition, I’d be on my knees beseeching my pal, Anonymous 9 (Blogbitch Supreme) if she’d please help this lowly Blogdick (me) out.

But I won’t. You can relax, 9. I’m out of all this. I just hope you nice folks “twit” and “face” my new book all over the Intergnat. I have but one goal for next year. That all the UPS drivers who deliver my books are forced to buy trusses.

(I hope you know this was all in fun, folks. Although, if I have to say this, it takes all the force away…) I do love the Intergnat and I truly do love the folks on here. True that. And they do sell books. Books on how to use the Intergnat to sell books…)

As John Goodman once said, “See ya in the funny papers.”

Blue skies,