Writing Through the White Outs ~ James Goertel’s View From the Keyboard

Check out this gorgeous View From the Keyboard of James Goertel, a writer who makes his home in Western New York, and whose debut collection of stories, Carry Each His Burden, I am eager to read. (Even more so now having sampled the book through the excerpt below.) I imagine it is quite lovely where he lives right now, the leaves all colors before they fall and before the snow falls. And falls. And falls. But James Goertel is not afraid of a snowy winter; he just burrows in and gets writing.

James: My beautiful wife, Rachel, grew up on Lake Ontario. After we met, she told me it was a dream of hers to own waterfront property on one of the Great Lakes. I was working in media in Philadelphia and she was teaching in Western New York at the time, so when we got together we decided to live halfway between our families in rural Pennsylvania. Then two years ago we had the good fortune to have our son, Henry. The impetus quickly became for us to relocate near Rachel’s relatives in Western New York, so Henry could grow up around family. On one particular visit to the Great Lakes, we found a small cottage in need of a major rehab on Lake Erie with the beautifully mutable views I now have out the window where I write. We’re still rehabbing, but the memories we are building here as a family have been the sweetest yet of our marriage.

I had been writing professionally for video and film projects for years, but it was here on the shores of Lake Erie that I had the impulse to put together my first fiction collection. Rachel has her PhD in Composition, so with the best and most cost-effective editor so willing, so encouraging, and so close at hand, I dove in last winter and began crafting the stories making up Carry Each His Burden. Did I mention Western New York winters or lake effect blizzards yet? The winters here are long and last year’s began in earnest around Thanksgiving and didn’t have the good manners to leave us until late April. I did a lot of shoveling and a lot of writing. I watched the watery blue vista change from fluid to iced over; took in any number of storm cloud assemblages; peered through the window above where I write unable to see past the pane for the whiteouts endlessly battering our insulation-challenged rehab. By late spring I was, for all intents and purposes, snow-blind, but had finished my fiction debut. The sound of waterfowl and, at long last, lapping waves began to return with the opening of Lake Erie and I could finally push wide the window beyond my keyboard which had been shut tight for five months—and yes, it stuck badly when I first tried to pry it from its weather limbo. I am sure the long, winter days beyond this window, my view from the keyboard, inform the words within the five stories, but a strong sense of space and place is what I have loved most in the stories of my own favorite writers—Dickey, Harrison, Miller, Algren and, I think appropriately, two brothers from Minnesota, Joel and Ethan Coen. So with winter just around the corner again, I don’t mind if you take a look out my window, my view from the keyboard, the one that surely sits between the pages of Carry Each His Burden.

From CARRY EACH HIS BURDEN, an excerpt from the story “Animal Kingdom”

Unnoticed until now, the sound of peepers and crickets outside filled the silence of the sad, little kitchen. King took another languorous drag of the cigarette and placed both his hands behind his head. It was nearly time for a beer.

A whole lot of everything had passed King by since he was fifteen, when things had still seemed at least possible. But that illusion was shattered by the age of sixteen when he went to live with the neighbors after his mother went mad enough that he stopped being the only one who noticed. It was the inevitable conclusion to the year she refused to speak even a single word to him and communicated only with cryptic notes left here and there about the house. The afternoon he came home from school to find the house locked tight and his mother, completely naked, inside a tent pitched in the front yard, seemed to be a bellwether even his pot-clogged brain could interpret as a sign it was time to move on. The end was a beginning as most ends are and it was next door that he first encountered the man hiding inside himself that he would never be able to outrun. The neighbor’s daughter was only eleven or maybe twelve at the time, but it was hard to remember now and he didn’t want to anyhow. It was time for that beer.

Thanks, James, for letting us get a bit of your View From the Keyboard. Good luck with the new book and the events and readings that go with its launch. And if readers of this series want to find out more about James Goertel, his book, and upcoming appearances and events, stop by https://sites.google.com/site/carryeachhisburden/home . Thanks again for reading! -PMc