The Writer’s Handful with John Mauk

Mauk Photo1 (1)

Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

I am so excited to bring this chat with John Mauk to you today. John is one of those remarkable fiction writers, the kind whose work makes your mind spin and dance, makes you ache and rejoice. But don’t take my word for it, preorder his upcoming collection of stories, Field Notes for the Earthbound, forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press. Its release is imminent. Be the first on your block.

Welcome John!

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

I wrote a little. I’ll call it polishing–maybe even fussing over a story. Okay, it was fussing. But in defense of fussers and the art of fussery, I think some of my more delicate discoveries come after the tenth, eleventh, or twentieth draft and just before I’m ready to send a story out. When I commit to submitting, that’s when my radar goes way up, when I detect those last few phrases that seem flat or familiar or simply out of tune with the story. In short, I did write today, but no worlds, humans, situations, or scenes were invented. A couple movements or descriptions got a bit more oomph, maybe more vitality or breath.

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

The first creative thing I wrote and made public was a poem about autumn. I drew orange leaves drifting around and down the page. And I remember a line about a single leaf–dying alone, broken free from the others. Funny. I was in the 6th grade. We’d been reading Poe. Poe!!! My God. If I ever say anything crabby about public education, someone remind me that middle school teachers had us reading Poe and I’ll shut the heck up. Bravo to them.  

What are you reading right now?

At night, I’m reading some early Marquez stories that I somehow missed along the way. ?!!! Down here in my basement, where I hide out in the evening, I’ve got a Lee K. Abbott collection by the chair. That’s typical a formula for me: a couple different writers for two rooms in the house. Also, I’m generally always reading Foucault. He’s on my coffee table and has been for years. When I don’t read Foucault regularly–even a section or chapter every week or so–I start not-hating the goofy worldview that I’m supposed to inherit and implement as a productive citizen, a sane person, and a teacher of English. Foucault throws me out of the big, safe, cultural boat. Okay. I’ll shut up about that. In short, to the question, I’m currently reading some early Garcia Marquez and some fine Lee K. Abbott stories.

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

That’s hard. Someone recently told me to slow down. Well, it was a sheriff. He was talking about my speed, but he meant it broadly too. I could tell. He was one of those guys. I drove off and thought, yeah, what’s my hurry? IMG_1582 (1)

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

On good days, my writing is a pack of wolves. It eats, rolls in carcasses, picks up foul stenches, and howls into the distance. Ya-freakin-hoo. On bad days, my writing is a singular domestic dog–a schnauzer, I think. It eats brand-name biscuits and growls at children.

wolf call


John Mauk has a Masters degree in language and literature from the University of Toledo and a PhD in rhetoric from Bowling Green State University. He is a college instructor and an avid student of philosophy. He has a fiction chapbook (The Rest of Us) published by Michigan Writers and a forthcoming collection (Field Notes for the Earthbound) on Black Lawrence Press. He has three college writing textbooks and currently teaches at Miami University of Ohio. For more info, please see:

→Thanks, John, for the chat. Looking forward to Field Notes! And thanks everyone, as always, for reading. -PMc←

9 Replies to “The Writer’s Handful with John Mauk”

  1. I met John last year when he taught my English 111 class and administered CPR to my slumped and drooling intellect. John’s fiction (The Rest of Us) is both charming and disarming. It infiltrates your interior world and exposes beliefs you never knew you held. His unpredictable plot twists first intrigue and then gently ambush you–making numerous points while leaving you to draw your own conclusions. I’m pre-ordering two copies of Field Notes; one “decoy” copy to lend out (since the best reads are least likely to return) and one to keep safely at home.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Sharon. Yeah, John Mauk is something special. And I love the idea of decoy books. One of my friends told me a long time ago that if you “loan” a book to someone, you must release it with love…

  2. Fantastic to read John’s words here – and I am so eager to see his forthcoming collections. Readers, if you’re anywhere near this guy and a podium, put the two together in the same room and watch the magic happen. You won’t regreat it.

  3. I love this man. I could sit and listen to him speak for days and never tire. His twist on the world is stimulating and through provoking. Thanks for this great share/read!

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