The Writer’s Handful with David (DA) Kentner


Mondays + Writers = finally something to look forward to.

Week eight of The Writer’s Handful welcomes David (DA) Kentner, the pen behind the wonderful interview and book series The Readers’ Writers. The series is published in newspapers all over the United States, and longer versions of these interviews are published on his site, DA Kentner: The Readers’ Writers. Clearly David is interested in all sorts of writers, readers, and books; these things keep him quite busy. So I am really pleased that he has a little bit of time to hang with us today and chat a bit.

Welcome David!

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

I write, something, every day. Today it’s blog posts and then back to work content editing and doing rewrites for a nonfiction author extremely knowledgeable in his/her field, which doesn’t include writing. I was hired to help produce a more marketable book; a new venture for me, but one I’m really enjoying at the moment.

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

I was a toddler with a piece of paper and a box of crayons. I wrote a picture story on the floor while my mom typed an episode for a soap opera. Her dream was to become a script writer. Unfortunately, that never happened. She stopped writing to raise her family. I learned the alphabet and discovered a whole new avenue for storytelling. My first published pieces were a short story and a poem I wrote in high school. Nothing spectacular, and because I chose to pursue a different career path, it would be thirty-eight years before I tried being published again. That said, I never stopped writing. I have boxes of poems, song lyrics, and stories no one has ever seen, and that’s probably for the best.MeSanta

What are you reading right now?

Right at this moment, I’m not reading anything. I just finished Scott Blagden’s Dear Life, You Suck. It’s brilliant, though won’t be everybody’s cup of tea. I read constantly in order to select authors I’d like to interview for my column The Readers’ Writers. I’m a few weeks ahead, so I’m taking a short break from reading.

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

Harlan Carbaugh, my friend and life mentor, once said, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” He was talking about chainsaws at the time, but those words ring true in everything we do. When we take people, especially those we love, for granted, it shouldn’t be a shock when we wake up alone. The same holds true for whatever endeavors we attempt. In the case of writers, the moment an author assumes that whatever they publish will be accepted, and the author gets lazy, not pushing their limits and striving to produce a better story, the author is cheating their readers. It won’t be long before the readers go find a new ‘favorite’ author.

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

A platypus, maybe? On the surface, the poor platypus appears disjointed, a hodgepodge of evolution unsure of what it’s supposed to be. However, if we take the time to fully understand the story the animal has to tell, the reasons it has adopted its shape and methods of survival, we find a whole new way of looking at the world around us and accept that nothing needs to fit into the predetermined parameters of expectation. I think that’s how I view all writing, not just mine. I want to experience something new with every story I read or write. I want to be entertained, and I hope my stories entertain readers.



David Kentner, also known as DA Kentner and KevaD, is a prize and award-winning author currently wondering why his lawnmower has become his most determined nemesis. His greatest writing reward to date was when a reader who asked him to write a certain style of book, which became the suspense novel Whistle Pass, came up and hugged him, exclaiming how the reader “loved” the story. David lives with his wife Virginia outside Freeport, IL, and hopes to live long enough to run out of stories to tell. Which isn’t possible.


→David, thanks so much for this fine little conversation! As always, it is a delight sharing ideas with you. And to everyone, thanks for reading! -PMc←

Engaged in a Civic Discourse ~ Pat and Chuck Wemstrom’s View From the Keyboard

Pat and Chuck Wemstrom make their home in the country outside of Mount Carroll, IL where Philip and I have a part-time residence. The area is filled with kind, friendly, generous people, many of whom are a bit conservative in their world view. Philip and I, descendants of hard-core lefties, took a few years to find like-minded friends in Mount Carroll, and we were delighted to first encounter Chuck and Patty in the letters to the editor page of the small local paper, and their remarks about healthcare and education and equal rights in love and life and keeping things green told us that these were folks worth getting to know. A delightful coincidence was that Chuck was looking to further hone his writing craft just at a time when I was engaged to teach a writing workshop at Shake Rag Alley in Mineral Point. Since then, we have shared meals and stories with this civic-minded couple, and now I am happy to introduce them to you.

Oh, and you should see their house out there in the country. Full of light and books and art. So good.

Pat and Chuck: We started by writing an occasional letter to the editor. One day, something in the paper upset Chuck and he wrote an especially long letter. He realized that it was too long for a letter, but he sent it to the managing editor, Eric Petermann at the Journal Standard, and he explained that it even though it was too long he wanted Eric to read it. Eric emailed back and invited us to his office. He said we could be “the J-S’s Steve and Cokie Roberts.” No guarantees, maybe once or twice a month, whatever, whenever. We’d all play it by ear. And of course we would not be reimbursed!

We love it. It has been almost a year and a half, and we appear regularly every Tuesday on the J-S’s op-ed page. Patty [W] keeps us honest. She does the editing, the proofreading and sets the standards. No name-calling. No cheap shots. Better sources, more documentation, not just Wikipedia.  Right now she’s on Chuck that Gene Lyons writes better than we do.

We get emails and snail mail, and people stop and talk to us at the grocery store and even at the symphony. The J-S has the column on-line and readers post their comments.

We share the “computer room,” a converted guest bedroom. No sudden noises, no Pandora and no mindless interruptions.  We each have our own space and our own corner to make our own mess. And when it gets out of hand, one or the other of us will say, “Enough!”and we’ll pretend to clean and organize. We share ideas from the very beginning. We’re each other’s critic and cheerleader. When we read each other’s work and the reader says, “Good,” the author has to try and interpret that “good.” Is it a good rough draft, is it a good column which just needs a bit of work here and tweak there or maybe it’s one of the better columns. And sometimes we have to figure out how to say, “Well, for me at least, it doesn’t seem to work very well.”

Patty McNair has come into our lives and is encouraging us to expand our horizons to try different styles and it’s working. Chuck loves to brag that he has a writing teacher. Not quite true, but it makes him feel important.

Why do we do it? It’s fun to put words together, even when they won’t come, simply refuse to come. And when they do come, when whole phrases, even sentences seem to write themselves, Wow! Sometimes our writing seems pedestrian, mundane, and derivative. But when it all comes together it makes us happy. When someone writes and says that they enjoyed our column, that it made sense, that it was well said and they appreciate someone caring enough to write, we feel really good.

Over the years we’ve read about writers, intellectuals, statesmen and just plain folks who believed that civic discourse was important. Others believed in a life of the mind. It’s not about last night’s game, but about what you are reading and thinking about, wanting to talk about.

When we taught, we knew sooner or later it came down to art. Teaching is a skill, a craft, but it is also an art. Good teachers fall short because they’re not artists. They’re not helping to create something in the classroom.  We think writing even the op-ed piece, the personal essay or memoir is an art. And we want to be involved in the artistic process.


An excerpt from Chuck’s work-in-progress:

There is more to school than books, curricula, chalkboards, NCLB, national standards and tests.  School is all about people. I have lots of ideas about curriculum, but my goal is to write about people. This is the beginning of a longer piece, one of a series of stories.

For the first twenty-five years of teaching, I looked forward to the first day. If I had taught summer school, I would have liked another week or so, but I was ready. If I hadn’t taught summer school I was ready by mid-August to get back to school, anxious to get back into the swing of things.

Everybody looked good the first day. Lots of teachers were dressed up. They had lost five pounds of that old winter fat, their clothes fit bit better and they had a little bounce in their step, a tiny swing in their hips as they hurried from one meeting to another. The women looked especially good—a little sexier, a little younger and a little bit more enthusiastic.

That was all destined to change over the course of the coming year. The white teachers would lose their tan, take on a pasty look as the year dragged on. The black teachers would go from the fresh look of summer to kind of a dull, gray, dusty complexion. And at the department meeting, the chair would introduce the new teachers. We’d all wonder, “Were we ever that young, did we look that good twenty years ago?”

An excerpt from Patty’s piece originally published in the Freeport Journal-Standard:

Walt Kelly’s comic strip “Pogo,” popular throughout the fifties and sixties, often satirized public figures. Responding to complaints from readers, several newspapers chose not to run particular strips.

Kelly, when writing a political story line that might draw fire, began sending alternate strips that a newspaper could publish. Called “bunny strips,” the cartoons featured bunnies telling insipid jokes. Kelly told fans that if they saw a strip with fluffy little bunnies in it, it meant that their newspaper didn’t believe they were capable of thinking for themselves.

The Chicago Tribune recently cancelled a brief series of “Doonesbury” strips that made fun of Sarah Palin. The strip repeated statements from Joe McGinniss’ new book, “The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin.”

In the Doonesbury strips, Fox News reporter Roland Hedley is given the assignment of putting a positive spin on McGinniss’ book, a Herculean task considering the material. For example, a neighbor is quoted in the book as saying Palin neglected her kids. Hedley tweets: “Book: Sarah taught kids self-reliance. So Alaskan.”

In our judgment, the target of the satire in the Doonesbury strip was not really Sarah Palin, but Fox News. Trudeau is saying that Fox reporters distort the news to reflect their own political views.

And yes, Fox News addicts will not agree. But most satire is controversial, and one of the foundations of this country, aside from Freedom of the Press, is Freedom of Speech. Readers should demand the truth and not settle for fluffy bunnies.

To read more from Chuck’s first days in the Chicago Public Schools, stop by and get a view from his window at his blog: And to read more from Chuck and Patty about ecology, economy, education, NRA Robocalls and ideas for a kinder, better world, visit the Freeport Journal-Standard. (Authors’ photo from Freeport Journal-Standard.) Thanks, Chuck and Patty for sharing; and thank you all for reading. -PMc 

On Need and the Single Digit Victory Sign ~ DA Kentner’s View From the Keyboard

DA (David) Kentner (aka KevaD) is one of those writers on the front lines of the battle to remind folks how important it is to keep reading. He is a regular contributor to the Freeport Journal Standard, and his column “The Readers’ Writers” is distributed nationwide. Recently, David took the time to share his view from the keyboard.

Kentner: My workspace reflects my work habits – contained calamity. This is my corner of our home, the back part of the living room, the room within a room. Here I can glance at my grandchildren or the memory of a beloved pet, ponder the hand that once carried the barn lantern, visualize the family that read by the oil lamp. The flag sat on my desk the years I was our city’s chief of police. Near it is the clock and plaque my staff presented me when I announced my retirement. The shelves are filled with reference books and novels I hope to read… someday.

Every morning I sit here to write. This is also the last place I sit before I go to bed. Sometimes day and night intertwine. That’s why there are four clocks, so no matter which way I turn I’ll know what time it is. The window just out of view helps me distinguish AM from PM.

I’m a writer. It’s what I do, what I love, what gives me life. Originally I wrote solely for my enjoyment. Then I was told I “needed” to be published. I hadn’t been aware I possessed that need, but bent to the idea. During my quest for publication a professional editor told me my skills weren’t good enough and I would never be published. Wrong answer. The gauntlet was at my feet. I picked up the challenge, and haven’t set the darn thing aside since.

Dozens of stories no one will ever see attest to the fact I still write for my sole enjoyment. But another persona sits with me in the chair now; a writer who takes pleasure in seeing his work in the hands of a reader, in the knowledge we brought a smile to a face or a tear to an eye. There will be some who won’t understand what I do. I write to write. For me, it’s not about profit in a bank account, it’s the profit of joy in my heart. It’s the kind word from a reader that he or she enjoyed one of my stories or an interview with a fellow author.

And it’s about giving that editor a single digit victory sign.

I think the best example of my character-driven style of writing is the short story “The Caretaker.” However, here’s a sneak peak at my current work in progress, “Hearts on a Paper Boat.”



Chapter One

Sometime between her first tear and the unexpected rain shower, the flags, the color guard in their white berets and gloves, the blue and brown uniforms of more law enforcement agencies than she could count grayed and blurred. Hannah Preston drew her knees to her chest and shivered in the grove of pines. It wouldn’t be long now. She closed her eyes to wall out the finality and hugged her legs as she had her teddy bear so many years ago in another life where the people she loved didn’t die.

Pop-op. Seven rifle shots masquerading as one reported across the cemetery, over the oats field, up the incline to her hiding place, and bore into her brain as if maggots after food. She gripped her elbows and compressed her body under the onslaught of agony rebounding from bone to bone inside her.

Pop-op. Seven more. She winced and shuddered.

Pop-op. The final volley of the twenty-one gun salute to a fallen brother officer drilled with dental precision through her ears, down her throat and into her belly. A fiery puddle of acid erupted and corroded what little desire remained to live another day.

Like a brass mourning dove, a solitary bugle wept Taps between the raindrops’ patter.

Hannah rested her forehead on her denim clad knees and clenched her jaw, but the chatter of her teeth drummed an erratic beat into her heart vying for a sustainable rhythm. A jolt of unchained sorrow and guilt ached down her spine and numbed every nerve, leaving only cold to ooze through her veins.


David, thank you for your View From the Keyboard. And thanks, too, for the work you do to keep readers reading and writers writing with your column, “The Readers’ Writers.” To read more, check out: And coming soon, the view from fiction and nonfiction writer Michael Downs and Scottish writer Craig Gilbert. PMc←