Jack Driscoll and the Short Story (on the day after Thanksgiving)

pabs thanksgiving

A short while ago, I got to talk with Jack Driscoll, one of my all-time favorite writers, for an interview on The Rumpus. There is so much goodness here, it would take me forever to excerpt the highlights. So why don’t you just wander over to The Rumpus and give it a read? (http://therumpus.net/2017/11/its-only-a-matter-of-time-a-conversation-with-jack-driscoll/) And since it is Black Friday, or Thanksgiving Part II, you might want to consider buying a copy (or two, or three, or four) of his short story collection The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot from your favorite bookseller.

The Writer’s Handful with Carrie Etter

Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

After a bit of hiatus, I am so very pleased to bring you The Writer’s Handful again. And I am even more pleased to have CARRIE ETTER, a remarkable poet and sudden prose writer, join us today. You must find Carrie’s work and read it immediately. She will break your heart. She will make you laugh. She will cause you wonder. She will speak to you as though you are close, close enough to touch. And her words will touch you.

Welcome Carrie!

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

It’s marking season, as it were, one of those times of year where I have weeks of marking to do, and I find it hard to write when I’m doing so much marking, so I probably won’t write again until after it’s done. I don’t like the situation, but I’ve learned to work with it.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?imagined_sons72_0

At age 3, on the large paper that’s half-lined, half empty space, I wrote (and drew) a story about ducks.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading four things in uneven rotation: H.P. Lovecraft’s Classic Horror Stories (a gift from a student), China Mieville’s The City and the CityDylan Thomas’s Collected Poems, and the current issue of New American Writing.

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

I can’t really think of concrete advice I’ve been given, at least broad principles, that I’ve found especially useful. I had a personal revelation while working on my PhD at the British Library. I was thinking I’d give up on writing a difficult poem, when I realized that if I faced the same situation in my PhD–an established critic whose argument directly conflicted with mine, say–I’d have to find a way through it. I had to approach writing with all the rigor I approached writing criticism. That’s since been a touchstone.

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

I’d aspire for my writing to be like a dolphin, intelligent and elegant.

Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia


Originally from Normal, Illinois, Carrie Etter has lived in England since 2001 and is a senior lecturer/associate professor of creative writing at Bath Spa University. She has published three collections, The Tethers (Seren, 2009), Divining for Starters (Shearsman, 2011), and Imagined Sons (Seren, 2014), and edited Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by UK Women Poets (Shearsman, 2010). Individual poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The New Republic, The New Statesman, The Times Literary Supplement, and elsewhere. She blogs athttp://carrieetter.blogspot.com.

Thank you Carrie Etter, for taking the time away from poem making, marking, reviewing, and blogging for this little chat. And thank you, everyone, always, for reading. – PMC

The Writer’s Handful with Fleda Brown

Fleda Brown 2011 4x5 color-2011

Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

I am so excited to have Fleda Brown contribute to this week’s Writer’s Handful. Fleda is a fabulous poet and nonfiction writer, and her latest (her eighth!) collection of poems, No Need of Sympathy was just released by BOA Editions. If you don’t already know Fleda’s work, you really, really should. Why not start with this latest collection and work backward? You won’t be disappointed. I promise. And to tide you over until your Fleda books come in the mail, let me invite you over to Fleda’s blog, My Wobbly Bicycle.

Welcome Fleda!

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

Oh yes. I’m blessedly “retired,” and I write almost every morning. This has been a relaxing day, since I didn’t feel the pressure that always accompanies starting a new poem or essay.  I revised a longish poem, worked on one that’s not even at finished first draft stage yet, I proofed and suggested some small changes in an essay coming out this fall in The Georgia Review, and I turned what had been a prose poem into a lineated poem for a downtown Traverse City poetry project I was asked to contribute to. The poems for this project will be read instead of seen. I was listening to it in my head and realized its cadence is better with line-breaks. It’s been interesting working today. I’m in our guest cottage at the lake and the painters are spray-washing. It’s like writing inside a waterfall.

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

My father and I together did a re-write of “The Night Before Christmas.”  It began, “T’was the night before No Need of Sympathy coverChristmas/ and all through the house / not a creature was stirring / not even a louse.” I no longer have a copy, but I remember it got sillier from there. My sixth grade teacher loved it.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading a Nineteenth century novel, North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, I started it because we’re at the cottage and I’d read everything I brought with me. This book was here, and my husband, who’s written a great deal about early women’s fiction, recommended it to me. It’s set in England and deals with the rise of manufacturing in the North, comparing it to the genteel South of England. It’s a romance, and the heroine does a lot of thinking about the philosophy and morality of each before she chooses a husband. It’s a fine novel and quite contemporary in some ways. I plan to write about it in my blog post this week. [My Wobbly Bicycle, 38.]

I’m also reading Maurice Manning’s poems, The Common Man, and Debra Bruce’s Survivor’s Picnic. I’m going to talk about them for my commentaries on IPR’s “Michigan Writers on the Air.” They’re terrific books, each very different. I’m particularly interested in how Bruce writes about her cancer, since I’ve had cancer, too, and I’m working on poems that seem to keep bringing that in.

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

Donald Hall, who has been extravagantly generous in his help to young writers, read and commented on poems years ago that eventually appeared in my first book. When that book was accepted by Purdue University Press, I wrote to him, all excited. He wrote back to say, “That’s wonderful! But remember there’s always something else out there. Even if you win the Nobel Prize, you won’t be satisfied. So concentrate on each poem. Don’t let the hunger for prizes and publications distort your work.”  Or something like that. I keep that in mind.

cat1If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I will choose a cat, because my dear cat Wally is lying with his big feet hanging over the top of the bureau beside me at the moment and he opens one eye to convey to me that he wishes to be included. He is gentle but steadily persuasive. He does not have an agenda except eating. His ears are sensitive to every fluctuation in the environment. He licks himself with great abandon. In short, he, like Christopher Smart’s cat Jeffery, worships in his way. He, too, writhes his body with eloquent quickness, sharpens his claws upon wood, and every house is incomplete without him. If you wish to know all of the ways my poems are cat-like, you must read Smart’s poem, not mine, but I’m most hopeful you’ll read mine as well. Especially, ahem, my new book from BOA Editions, No Need of Sympathy, out this October.     


Fleda Brown was born in Columbia, Missouri, and grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She earned her Ph.D. in English (specialty in American Literature) from the University of Arkansas, and in 1978 she joined the faculty of the University of Delaware English Department, where she founded the Poets in the Schools Program, which she directed for more than 12 years. Her books, essays, and individual poems have won many awards. Her sixth collection of poems, Reunion (2007), was the winner of the Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin. She has co-edited two books, most recently On the Mason-Dixon Line: An Anthology of Contemporary Delaware Writers. Her collection of memoir-essays, , was released in 2010 from the University of Nebraska Press.

Fleda has read and lectured in secondary schools, retirement communities, libraries, bookstores, a prison for delinquent adolescents, Rotary Clubs, AAUWs, and many universities and colleges, from Oxford University, Cambridge, to small liberal arts colleges. She has slept in a bunkhouse and has read with cowboy poets in North Dakota, and she has read for the Governor of Delaware and for the Delaware Legislature. She served as poet laureate of Delaware from 2001-2007, when she retired from the University of Delaware and moved to Traverse City, Michigan. In Traverse City, she writes a monthly column on poetry for the Record-Eagle newspaper, and she has a monthly commentary on poetry on Interlochen Public Radio. She teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop, a low-residency MFA program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, and she spends summers with her husband, Jerry Beasley, also a retired English professor, at their cottage on a small lake in northern Michigan. Between them, they have four children and ten grandchildren.


→Thanks so much, Fleda, for the chat. Wishing you all the best with the new collection! And thanks to everyone, as always, for reading. -PMc←

The Writer’s Handful with Don McNair

McNair300dpiHarrumph. 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 three of The Writer’s Handful features Don McNair, a writer of journalism, fiction, and nonfiction, and a highly respected (and sought after) editor. His most recent book is Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave. Full disclosure here, Don is my cousin, or second cousin, or cousin once-removed or something; however, I haven’t seen him in decades, but love to be able to share writing news and ideas with him long-distance.

Welcome Don!

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

In a way, yes. I’m now a full-time freelance fiction editor, and spend four or more hours every day Editor-Proof Your Writing Cover(including weekends) editing for clients. I spent my forty-year career writing for magazines and public relations clients, and it’s hard to get me away from the word processor.

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

My first story was in grade school. The teacher asked us to write something about Mother’s Day, and the next day read my story to the class. A cute little girl came to me afterwards and said, “Donnie, I loved your story.” At that moment I realized I loved writing, and feared cute little girls.

What are you reading right now?

I have eclectic reading tastes, varying from cereal boxes to romance to adventure. Now I’m reading “No Easy Day,” by Mark Owen, the true story about the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden.

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

It’s hard to sift the “most important” advice from among the thousands of tidbits I’ve received. But for writing, I suppose it’s the advice to write about what I know. I’ve written ten published books—six novels, four non-fiction—and in most cases that’s what I’ve done. Research is a lot easier that way!

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

Boy, that’s a tough one. I could say “hound dog” because I sniff out the details, “cat” because I’m curious about so many things, or “workhorse” because I plow ahead through a confusing patch of ideas and research problems and usually end up with a smooth, fertile field. Or at least it seems that way to me. The ones who know for sure, of course, are my readers.


Don McNair spent his working life editing magazines (eleven years), producing public relations materials for an international PR company (six years), and heading his own marketing communications firm, McNair Marketing Communications (twenty-one years). His creativity has won him three Golden Trumpets for best industrial relations programs from the Publicity Club of Chicago, a certificate of merit award for a quarterly magazine he wrote and produced, and the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil. The latter is comparable to the Emmy and Oscar in other industries.

McNair has written and placed hundreds of trade magazine articles and four published non-fiction how-to books. He considers his latest, Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave, (published April 1, 2013 by Quill Driver Books) to be the cap of his forty-year writing and editing career. It’s an easy-to-use editing manual that helps writers edit, step by step, their first chapter, then use the knowledge gained to edit the rest of their work.

McNair has also written six novels; two young adults (Attack of the Killer Prom Dresses and The Long Hunter), three romantic suspenses (Mystery on Firefly Knob, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, and co-authored Waiting for Backup!), and a romantic comedy (BJ, Milo, and the Hairdo from Heck). All are published internationally, and are available at his website, http://DonMcNair.com.

McNair, a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and the Editorial Freelancers Association, now concentrates on editing novels for others. He teaches two online editing classes.


→Thanks, Cousin Don, for joining in our Monday conversations. And I look forward to reading your story collection The Man on The Park Bench. And thanks to you all, as always, for reading! -PMc←