Narrative Nudge ~ October 17, 2017

Image from Rita

10.17.2017: Where she went.


Wilbur Frank McNair ~ May 8, 1919 – October 11, 1974

dad and dog

My father died forty three years ago today. Do we ever stop missing those people we love and lose? In memory of him, I offer this paragraph from my essay “Finding my Father and the FBI,” recently published in my brand new book out from Side Street Press, And These Are the Good Times, and before that, Chicago Literati.


It’s true that my dad was followed by the FBI. He was a card-carrying Communist who was a union rabble-rouser in the forties and fifties. To some, that meant he was a national threat: not true, not really. He was a bad father to his first batch of children, and—mostly—a better father to his second; this is true. The file, what I can remember of it since I can’t find it, pieced together bits of his life, mostly from years before I was born. Those bits don’t add up to the father I knew, the suburban dad with an organic garden who worked a day job in an office wearing a tie and who mowed his lawn while wearing shiny work pants and black socks and dress shoes on weekends. My dad didn’t abandon my family or steal 500 bucks from his boss or plan in secret meetings to overthrow the government with his Commie friends. My dad took the train to work. The Skokie Swift. He sometimes left the office early on summer days to go to a Cubs game. He wrote books with titles like How to Get a Higher Paying Job Now and New Careers for Teachers. He had nothing to hide, nothing the FBI needed to know.


→I will be doing a brief reading as part of Essay Fiesta at the Book Cellar on Monday, October 16 at 7 PM, and a longer one with the poet David Trinidad at Women & Children First on Thursday, November 1 at 7 PM. Hope to see you. And as always, thanks for reading! ~ PMc←


A Few Fives from the Chicago Book Expo

Banner from the 2017 Chicago Book Expo

Just back from the Chicago Book Expo, where I got to chat with Dennis Foley from my publisher, Side Street Press. The title of our conversation: Independent but Not Alone. And here below, some tips and resources and a little nudge we shared to help writers figure out what is best for their own publishing pursuits.

Five Ways to Find (and connect with) Independent Publishers

  1. Do your research. Read Poets & Writers, Writers Digest, book spines to see who is publishing what.
  2. Go to book fairs, conferences, literary events. Say hello. (Don’t, though, try to sell yourself and your work right then, unless they ask you to.)
  3. Reach out. Be a fan. Like their Facebook page. Follow them on Twitter. Send a friendly note. Be sincere.
  4. Support their writers. Attend readings, suggest their books to others. Be a fan here, too.
  5. Watch for calls for anthologies. These can offer a doorway into a publishing house.

Five Good Things About Working with an Independent Publisher

  1. Small pond.
  2. You often get to be part of the decisions: cover art, book jacket copy, launch party.
  3. You will get to know how to do other things like market yourself, do public readings, reach out to strangers…things that word nerds are not always good at, but things that are valuable for a whole lot of reasons.
  4. Your publishers and editors are enthusiastic—you are their livelihood—albeit exhausted.
  5. You can be pretty sure your work is loved. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have chosen you. And after so many times your work has been rejected, it is really, really good to be loved.

Five Challenges of Working with an Independent Publisher

  1. You have to work really, really hard if you want the book to succeed.
  2. You have little (and sometimes no) marketing team behind you. Hiring your own for this can cost far more than you can expect to make.
  3. The books are made in small runs (big runs can also be a problem; big houses expect you to be able to sell all of the books they print.)
  4. Things may take a long time; and small houses don’t always survive. (Neither do the bigger guys, though.)
  5. Distribution and attention is not a given. Check with your indie publisher about these things before you sign the dotted line. Get everything in writing.


Five Sites to Find Out More

  1. (Poets & Writers) – craft and publishing talk of a sometimes “literary” nature
  2. (Authors Publish Magazine) calls for submissions, tips and info
  3. (Writers Digest) – craft and publishing talk of a more “commercial” nature
  4. (The Review Review) – all sorts of information about literary journals and magazines, often the way to get “discovered”
  5. (Small Press Distribution) – a book distributor who works with dozens of small and independent presses. See their titles, their publishers, their marketing


Your turn. Five Goals for Your Work






Good Times Today!!!

good times with philip

And These Are the Good Times, Patricia Ann McNair

From Booklist, 9/1/2017: “Short story writer McNair (The Temple of Air, 2011) proves to be an irresistible personal essayist of refreshing candor,  vibrant openheartedness, rueful humor, and unassuming wisdom. In the title piece, which opens this companionable, down-to-earth collection, young McNair joins her beloved father at Sullivan’s, his favorite Chicago tavern, bugging him for coins for the jukebox and dancing happily by herself. Enthralled by music, hubbub, and motion, McNair remains adventurous and omnivorously curious. Swinging backward and forward in time, she vividly chronicles such indelible experiences as spending her seventeenth summer as a volunteer at a dental clinic in Honduras, how she set about losing her virginity after her father died when she was 15, her bartender days, a fling in Cuba, and marriage. McNair frankly addresses sexuality and sexual abuse, the last two presidential elections, and the lives and deaths of loved ones. Throughout these vital, confiding, potent, and superbly well-crafted essays, McNair also muses on her path to becoming a writer and a writing teacher, generously sharing insights into the creative process and “the yearning toward wonder.”” – Donna Seaman 

Sunday, September 24, 2017: TODAY IS THE DAY! In just a few hours I will be celebrating the launch of my second book, And These Are the Good Timeswith friends and family and with the wonderful folks from Side Street Press, my publisher. In honor and anticipation of this life event, I am sharing the book’s review from Booklist, penned by the fabulous writer and editor Donna Seaman.

Please join us for the celebration today: 4:30 – 6:30, The Riverview Tavern, 1958 W. Roscoe, (Roscoe and Damen), Chicago, IL

I hope to see you all soon, and as always, thanks for reading! – PMc




Good Times Tomorrow!


I watched as my mother selected things we needed (bread, milk, cigarettes) and put them in the cart. I watched her consider things we didn’t need but would like (steaks, orange juice, cookies), and choose a few of those as well. She calculated, the prices slipping over her lips like a murmur. ~ From “Saturday Shopping”

And These Are the Good Times, Patricia Ann McNair

Tomorrow, Sunday, September 24, 2017, I will be celebrating the launch of my second book, And These Are the Good Timeswith friends and family and with the wonderful folks from Side Street Press, my publisher. In honor and anticipation of this life event, I am sharing the first few sentences of the essay “Saturday Shopping.” Why? Because it is Saturday, and I am going shopping.

I hope to see you all tomorrow, and as always, thanks for reading! – P