The Writer’s Handful with Ken Rodgers

Photo courtesy of Kevin Martini-Fuller

Photo courtesy of Kevin Martini-Fuller

Harrumph. Mondays. What’s to look forward to? Hey, how about a new series dedicated to brief conversations with writers of all genres, at all stages of their careers? Yes! How cool would that be? Very cool.

So welcome to THE WRITER’S HANDFUL. In this new series, a writer will answer five questions anyway they want to. The questions will stay the same each time. The writers will be different. And I will post the interviews on Mondays.

Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.

Week five of The Writer’s Handful welcomes Ken Rodgers, a marvelous poet and prose writer, as well as a filmmaker and teacher. I don’t know Ken personally–he’s in Idaho, I am in Illinois, two states only close to one another in the alphabet–but I think I know that he is one damn fine guy. The writing I have read of his is wonderful, and he is a huge supporter of writers and the arts…the kind of man who creates good literary karma. It seems appropriate, too, that on Memorial Day, we spend some time with Ken. Visit his websites and read his books (The Gods of Angkor Wat available here) and you will see why, I think.Book Cover

Welcome Ken!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

Today I wrote on upcoming entries for the two blogs I manage at and I also edited one of the stories in my next e-book provisionally titled Ojo de Dios. I look at a moment like this as an opportunity to ponder my writing habits. I don’t write on a regular schedule. I generally write every day, but not in any given piece or genre unless pressed by deadline. I am guilty of being interested in multiple art forms. Besides writing fiction, non-fiction, poetry and blogs, I take a lot of photographs and produce and direct documentary films. I whore around a bit with art.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

The first thing I recall writing was a story about an alien visitor to earth and I think the story was titled “Gurgle.” I was eleven or twelve. I wrote earlier, but don’t remember what. My mother told me I used to write letters to a man she presumed were addressed to my father’s good friend named, “Ted.” In honor of those letters, I named my stuffed dog, “Ted Letter.”  I couldn’t really write since I was about three when I composed these, but I was writing them nevertheless.

What are you reading right now?

I read a lot. Right now I am reading, for the second time, Shelby Foote’s monumental The Civil War. I am reading two books of poetry: Robert Wrigley’s Earthly Meditations and the western poet John Dofflemyer’s Gate Left Open. Both  works are contemplative in nature, yet enlivened by the tools of the poet; sound and repetition, concrete imagery. I am also reading Harold Bloom’s Shakespeare, the Invention of the Human and The Portable Jung edited by Joseph Campbell. I am very interested in Jung’s notion of archetypes and the collective unconscious. As far as fiction, I am reading David Abrams‘ novel Fobbit, a satirical look at the Iraq War. I also read blogs, news, magazines and lots of posts in the internet, some of which fascinate me with their bilious nature.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

The most important advice I ever received was from one of my drill instructors in 1966 at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot  San Diego, California . He said, “Keep your head down.” And I did when I fought in Vietnam even though now I usually keep it up so I can see what the hell is happening.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

If my writing was an animal, what would it be? That’s forcing me to think in terms of metaphor and even though I am a creative writer and need to think in metaphor and simile and metonymy and synecdoche, I rarely do unless forced. Let’s see…a sidewinder, a bison, a wolverine? Yes, a wolverine: sneaky and solitary and confrontational and vicious if needs be.


From Ken’s website: “Ken Rodgers teaches and writes in Boise, ID.  He has chased sheep across the desert, chased the enemy through the jungles of southeast Asia, run the head gate to capture cattle, pounded the keys of a calculator, pounded the keys of a typewriter, peddled mountain real estate, and tailed off recycled redwood at a finishing mill.

An award-winning author, Ken explores the region where poetry and prose meet.

His poems, short stories and essays have appeared in Idaho Arts Quarterly, Eagle Magazine, The Farallon Review, 34th Parallel, Ascent Aspirations, Switchback,VerbSap, Absomaly, Tiny Lights, Fiction Attic, Roman Candles, and other publications.  He has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of San Francisco.  Ken was a Pushcart Prize Nominee, and was nominated for Poet Laureate of Sonoma County, California, as well as for inclusion in Best New American Voices.  His first book of poetry, Trench Dining (Running Wolf Press), was published in 2003.  Barstow and Other Poems, was released in 2008.  His latest collection, Passenger Pigeons, is scheduled for release in 2010.

He has performed his work in libraries, hair salons, coffee shops, book fairs, wineries, movie theaters, colleges, pubs, book stores, and on public radio and television.  He has also juried several writing contests.

Ken is a founding member of the Idaho Writer’s Guild which is an affiliate of The Cabin literary center in Boise.  He recently served on the board of both Big Tree Arts and True North Creative Learning Center.  Along with his wife, Betty, he was a founding member of the Literary Arts Council of the Sebastopol Center for the Arts in Sebastopol, CA, and together they have hosted many classes, workshops, and readings.  They have a married son and daughter, as well as two granddaughters.”


→Thanks, Ken. Not just for this brief conversation, but for all you (and Betty) do. And thanks to everyone for reading! -PMc←


Have a Great Summer ~ And Don’t Forget to Write!

IS-1dlujp8qcxrh9I am one day away from a self-imposed writing retreat to our Mt Carroll, IL house (it’s up for sale, by the way, in case you are looking for your own retreat) that will start with a writing weekend with two of my best writing buddies, Gail and Jana. (I just noticed that I have written the word “writing” three times in that sentence. I guess I want to remind myself that this retreat must be about the writing.) Anyway, once my buds have gone, I will need to be my own inspiration for a while. No internet in the house, no television or other distractions. Lots of neighbors close by with whom I enjoy raising a glass now and again, but I will have to use that glass-raising as my reward for a good day’s work.

The semester has just finished, and as always, at the end of it, I remind my students not to give in to the temptation to put the writing off. You know how it is at the end of a school year; the first thing you want to do is sleep (okay, maybe the first thing you want to do is drink, but after that, you really do need to catch up on all the sleep you have missed.) The last thing you want to do is anything that feels remotely like homework. So you save the writing for the next day. And then the next day, and IMAG0339the next. And before you know, the summer has passed and you have–indeed–forgotten to write. (This procrastination action is not limited to students, by the way. Teachers. Parents. Single guys and gals. Anyone who thinks that they will have more time to accomplish what the really want to in the summer when the days are longer and the breezes are warmer can be caught in the trap of “I’ll get to it tomorrow.”)

So want a little nudge? How about a writing getaway for yourself? As it happens, I will be teaching four workshops of various lengths and purpose this summer, and I would love to have you join me.

First: Journal & Sketchbook at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts in beautiful Mineral Point, Wisconsin. June 8 & 9, 2013.


I co-teach this class with visual artist Philip Hartigan, and we gear the class toward writers and artists of all levels. Activities will help you use visual note taking, writing, and expressive mark making to help you record memories, observations, imaginings, stories, and visual narratives. This pairing and interplay of text and image is a time-honored artistic tradition, practiced by writers and artists from Mark Twain to Henri Matisse to Jean-Michel Basquiat, and is useful for all manner of creative expression.

Participants may sign up for either one or both days—for a weekend of writing and drawing and creative practices. New activities will be undertaken each day.

Second: Interlochen College of Creative Arts Writers Retreat in gorgeous and green Interlochen, Michigan. June 17 – 20, 2013.

My fiction workshop for this retreat is already full to capacity, but there is still room in Memoir (Anne-Marie Oomen,) Poetry (James Arthur,) and Writing for Children and Young Adults (Louise Hawes.) main-entrance-sign

Second-and-a-half: Blogging for Artists and Writers. Interlochen, Michigan. June 21, 2013.

The brilliant artist and writer Philip Hartigan will be teaching a one-day workshop on New headshotbuilding and maintaining your own blog.

Third: Journal & Sketchbook: Florence. July 4 – August 2, 2013.

This is a big one, folks. This college-level, study abroad course offered by the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago is also open to interested participants who are not currently Columbia College Chicago students. A month in Italy drawing and writing? Yes please. 75498_221057628035837_387282161_n(Co-taught with Philip Hartigan.)

Fourth: Creating Story: A Fiction Writing Workshop at Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts. Mineral Point, Wisconsin. August 10 & 11.

Always wanted to write that short story? Eager to keep at that novel? Know you have a story to tell, but haven’t quite figured out how? Creating Story is for you. Drawing on memory, imagination, and observation in order to create fictional work, this two-day workshop is designed for writers at all levels. Activities will help you develop new work and reconsider work-in-progress, and will assure that you have new pages written by the time you leave the beautiful confines of Shake Rag Alley. Fiction writers of all genres are welcome, as are memoir writers who are eager to explore the fictional possibilities of their life stories.


So, hey, yeah it is summer. Have a good one. But don’t forget to write.

→My Shake Rag Alley workshops offer discounts to writing group members. Contact me through my templeofair account at gmail if you want details. Interlochen Writers Retreat offers discounts to members of Michigan Writers. And you don’t have to be a resident of Michigan to be a Michigan Writer. Hope to see you this summer. And as always, thanks for reading! -PMc←