A Poem for the Way Home


by Wesley McNair

Past where the last
gang of signs

comes out of the dark
to wave you back

and past telephone
wires lengthening

with the light of someone
beyond the next hill

just returning,
a slow single line

will take the eye
of your high beam. Around you

will be jewels
of the fox-watch.

Great trees will rise up
to see you passing by

all by yourself,
riding on light.


Poem from The New Criterion site. Image from So Divine magazine. Happy Thanksgiving weekend, friends. And thanks for reading. -PMc←

A Writer Sees, An Artist Writes ~ Gerard Woodward and Philip Hartigan in Conversation

The very fine visual artist and art writer Philip Hartigan (as many of you know) is my husband. He is also the curator and writer of the art blog Praeterita. And he and I teach a course called “Journal and Sketchbook” at various locations and to various populations. (Next up, a semester long course in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago.)

This fine line and connection between the visual and literary arts has always been of interest to Philip. Here then, is a brief excerpt from an interview he did with Gerard Woodward, one of my favorite contemporary writers (check out the conversation he took part in for this site here.) I encourage you to click through to Philip’s website and see the images and video connected to the post as well.

Artist-Writer Artist: Gerard Woodward (excerpted from Praeterita, by Philip Hartigan)

I am extremely pleased that poet and author Gerard Woodward agreed to be interviewed for this series. Gerard and my wife, Patty, were colleagues for a short while at the end of 2008, when Patty taught for one semester at Bath Spa University, where Gerard is a faculty member in the Creative Writing program. Gerard spent the spring semester of 2011 in Chicago on a reciprocal visit. Gerard has published poetry, short-stories, and novels. “Householder”, his 1991 collection of poetry, won the Somerset Maugham Award in the UK, and his novel “I’ll Go to bed at Noon” was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Of his most recent novel, “Nourishment”, The Daily Telegraph reviewer wrote: “It is a novel to be savoured, and Woodward is a novelist to be treasured.” It turns out that in addition to his success as a writer, Gerard started his adult life in art college, and still draws and paints when he can. So here, from a writer’s point of view, is a discussion about how a writer sees, how a writer draws, and what parallels he observes between the sister arts.

PH: Your first stint in higher education was at an art college (and I believe you are married to a visual artist). What do you remember about yourself and your relation to visual art at that time in your life?

GW: I chose to go to art school as a way of escaping the humdrum working life I was living at that time. I left school at 16, convinced there would be a nuclear war by 1985, and didn’t want to waste my life in sixth form. So instead, I wasted it working in a Tescos supermarket (and many other places – I had six jobs in two years). So going to art school was a way of escape – but I didn’t choose it out of any life-long ambition to be an artist. In fact I didn’t want to be an artist at all, and had originally applied to do graphics, with an eye to being something like a designer of some sort eventually. But then, when I got there, I met lots of people who wanted to be artists, and we hung around in little groups sneering at graphics students with their scalpels and their letraset sets. So I switched, during my foundation year, to fine art, in the full knowledge that I’d just signed away any chance I’d had of getting the good job I’d come to art school to get, and would be likely to end up back in the factories I’d tried to escape. (read more…)
Thanks for reading! – PMc

Immense and Startling Power ~ Raymond Carver’s View From the Keyboard

“It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things—a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring—with immense, even startling power.” – Raymond Carver

Back from England, where I spent an evening reading and talking about short stories with K. J. Orr, D. W. Wilson, and Adam Marek for a Daunt Books event at The Stag in Hampstead. And today, back at work in Chicago where meetings loom in the next few hours, I find myself thinking about writing, about story, about the wonderful story writers I have come to know. And about Raymond Carver.

Thanks for reading. – PMc←

Driving The Dream ~ Katey Schultz’s View From the Keyboard

Okay, so I know you all have had this dream: chuck most everything and then pack up your car with a few scraps of clothes, lots of books, journals, a gross of your favorite pens, gallons of water, a bottle of whiskey and your laptop. Then take off. Drive. Dream. Write.

There are not many of us who would have the cojones to actually live this sort of life, though, so it brings me great pleasure to introduce you to someone who does. Katey Schultz is a writer I had the opportunity to meet at the Interlochen Writers’ Retreat this past summer, and have been following cyberly ever since. Now you gotta meet this woman. Let me introduce you:

Katey: Not too long after the Great Recession earned its name, I finished grad school and faced a market saturated with MFA graduates. About the time my student loans kicked in, I was laid off from my part-time job slinging coffee and decided the only sane thing for a partially-not-sane writer to do was hit the road. For three years. Today I’m 23 months into that 36-month journey and my view from the keyboard happens to be the Shenandoah Valley in Amherst, VA, where I’m a Fellow at Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Last month, my view from the keyboard was of parched Texas Hill Country, packs of wild boars, and a herd of 46 bison. Before that, I’d been holed up in a warehouse with a painter in Houston. Before that, nestled along the banks of Green Lake in Northern Michigan. Before that? Eastern Oregon…All of which is to say, my view from the keyboard that conjures any semblance of my current writing reality is something like the map I created using Google Maps. The letters mark residencies and fellowships I’ve traveled to since January 2010, driving most places with the exception of Alaska. I suppose it’s also fair to say my view from the keyboard includes my 1989 Volvo Station Wagon, affectionately known as THE CLAW, which has magical powers beyond metaphorical description.

Traveling and moving as much as I do provides me with immense food for thought and exciting possibilities for place-based writing. I tend to process publicly, using The Writing Life Blog as my sketchpad and then later incorporating what I learn about place into my fiction as I feel inspired. For over half of the journey so far, I’ve been reading, studying, interviewing, and writing for my current fiction manuscript titled FLASHES OF WAR. This collection is 29 stories told from the perspectives of characters in and around the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. To relax from the intensity of war-themed work, I explore my surroundings and blog about it. These two forms of writing seem to balance each other successfully. Mix in a little cardiovascular exercise, singing in the car, some wine with friends, and daily supplements of chocolate and you’ve pretty much got my recipe for the writing life.

Here’s a sample of my war stories, recently published by War, Literature, & the Arts. The link goes to the contributor page and from there click on Katey Schultz for a free download.

With regard to life on the road, here was a particularly popular recent blog post that demonstrates how place inspires my nonfiction. It’s posts like these that I feel certain will grow into longer essays someday.

Last but not least, here’s a sample of the reality of life on the road: learning to wear my business cap and market myself as a writer. I live on roughly $12,000 per year earned from teaching and fellowship stipends, plus a little from freelancing. I offer free content on my blog but have learned that in order to buy gas I need to have money and money can come from all kinds of services. I edit for three magazines (here’s my favorite one), teach students by correspondence, and most recently came up with Monthly Fiction, an affordable, fun way to keep writing, stay connected, and eke out a living. In fact, in true business cap fashion, if you sign up because you found the link on this blog, email me (katey.schultz[at]gmail.com) with the words PATTY ANN in the message and I’ll send you a free zine just for signing up.

Meantime, here’s an excerpt from the first short story in Monthly Fiction:

“Amplitude” by Katey Schultz

That time? We hiked along Pinch Ridge to the apex and climbed the radio tower at dusk. Ben didn’t know the way, even though these mountains belonged to him as much as they belonged to me. Two creeks south along the ridge, his mom’s trailer squatted on a cinderblock foundation—a Carolina Country doublewide the color of spent Levi’s and just about as worn. I lived with my parents at the base of Pinch Ridge. A stone-faced house with a white porch and fancy roof; something the Baptists might have cornered in on if it weren’t for the fact of property and bloodlines.

Ben’s mom worked nights at the sewing factory and he started junior year at the high school the same year I was supposed to graduate. He worked evenings bagging groceries at Hughes Market where it was my job to unlock the tobacco case anytime somebody wanted a pack of Camels. A month before, Ben’s kid brother overdosed on crystal and he missed a week of pay. The paper ran the story. Everyone in town said Patrick convulsed for hours in the ER, rattling the hospital bed like the rapture. “Some trouble, that kid,” my old geometry teacher said to his wife the day after the obituary ran. He stood at the checkout counter, talking as if nobody cared. “Hush now,” his wife said, touching his forearm. “Think of the mother.”

Two hours uphill and another half mile along the ridge, we came to a mowed patch of mountaintop and heavy fencing around the radio tower. “Don’t you want to climb it?” I said, shoving Ben a step toward the guard fence. The radio tower loomed a hundred feet above us. He shoved me back and that’s when I curled my fingertips around his belt buckle and pulled him in for a kiss.

Ben pushed me off of him. “Why’d you do that?”

“Shut up,” I said, reaching for him again. It was our first kiss and I was sick of waiting. He kissed me back this time, mouth sweet and salty as ketchup. I liked his soft cheeks and pointy Adam’s apple, earlobes like little shrimp tails just waiting to be sucked. He mashed my breasts around and I leaned my back into the fence. He wasn’t very good…


Okay, friends–you heard it here: Katey Schultz will send you a free zine if you email her and sign up for her Monthly Fiction (details above.) And don’t forget to check out her blog, The Writing Life. Drive carefully, Katey; drive on.  -PMc←