Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Turning 66

I wasn't quite five in this picture.  We'd gone to Vero Beach from Illinois to hang out with Dad a while before he went into the Army.  He'd closed his doctor's office in Tuscola, made all his arrangements to be gone a while.  He'd been rejected by the service in WWII because he had a broken back from high school football.  But now he was a doc and they needed doctors in Korea.  He was about thirty or thirty one -- my sister Maureen is far more exact with the dates and ages.

This morning, my 66th birthday, I'm meeting my daughter Laura age thirty for coffee in Winter Park.  Life is good.  A lot of people at about this time are thinking of retirement,  but I have a beautiful job at Rollins College and I don't feel old enough to retire (by my definition of old enough).  And besides, writers don't actually retire, that I know of -- they might retreat from the work-a-day to make more time to write, or to embark on a big project, I suppose, but I must admit I love to teach writing and good contemporary reading and it keeps my head in the game.  I am just returning from a year-long, actually 15 month long, sabbatical.  I won't bore you with how good it was.  I traveled a good deal, taught three weeks in Shanghai for Rollins, borrowed a cabin in Highlands, NC from wonderful friends, drove straight from there to the Spalding Fall Residency (low res. MFA) where I mentor fiction and some poetry, then after Thanksgiving rendezvoused with my cousin John in Rapid City, SD for a journey to visit with my dad's beloved sisters Virginia and Elaine (a loop that took us across South Dakota and Nebraska), then Dad's beloved brother Father Steve Deaver in Western Nebraska (birthday 8/15/33), then after Christmas drove from Maitland to Bluffton, SC to borrow a beautiful house to write in for a month (thanks so much to Diane and John!) -- my sister came for a week to help settle me in, and that was a great gift --, then in Feb. we joined my lifelong friends Herb and Bonnie in Key West and celebrated Susan's and my anniversary; I was home the month of March for work and cataract surgery, and back on the road to Fairhope, AL to occupy that very literary town's writing cabin (thanks to Roy, Skip, the Fairhope Library committee, and Mona for being great hosts) for all of April.  In May, I was a weekend in Tallahassee for a workshop, then Melbourne, FL at the writing workshop at Florida Tech, always a great experience, and went from there directly to the Spring Spalding residency, then home for the summer except for a July trip back the Highlands to do a workshop and then to Hendersonville, NC to hang a few days with my sister and her husband in a great rental house there.  In all of it, I'll admit I did relax.  I did have solitude and quiet.  I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped, but hoping isn't how you write.  :-)   Self-talk.  Oh, yes, a lot of self-talk on the sabbatical.

I'd still like to shag some fly balls again someday at the Rollins baseball field, and take some infield, maybe get in the cage and take some swings.  Need I mention that I have three giant volumes of fiction I want published before I croak.  One is a novel in novellas called Past Tense; one is a novel in stories called Forty Martyrs Suite; one is a giant volume of short stories called Dreams of Her.  There's another volume of poems coming along.  I've long wanted to write a screenplay, have given it a few robust tries but that's still out there ahead of me, oh, and I'd like to make a movie also, in the single camera mode of "Blue Valentine" -- not that story of course but one of my own that is as intimate and stormy as "Blue Valentine" and has as much hope in it.  :-)   So the future is out there ahead of me with some considerable challenges and still a bit of ambition.

I am obsessed with current day politics.  I'm glad the election is coming up, and we can get that behind us.  It is easy to see that the Republicans don't want or need to be in the White House because, being the actual embodiment of the 1%, they can make most things happen or not happen with their current obstructionist strategy in Congress.  Meantime, that poor attitude toward the rest of the country and world will give us twelve more years of Democrats in the White House -- including the first African American President, whom we have now, and, next time, the first woman President.  Oh yes Tea Party, read the Tea Leaves in the bottom of your cups.  It's coming, a renaissance of diversity.  I'm glad of it.  It is coming surprisingly fast, summoned by the Far Right because of their attitude, their resistance, and their cynical deceptions (voter suppression being one of the most profane).

I'm not about to digress further about it.  I've got a syllabus to write.

I have been very lucky in my life.  Those who know me will agree.  It was a lucky start, first-born into the household of a doctor and a nurse.  That picture above, that's lucky me at 4.5 years old.  I've had good friends along the way, most of whom have remained friends or at least I feel like they have.  I'd love to list the names.  At the age of 52, after writing since grade school, I got a job in a college as an English professor and teacher of writing.  When I got here, they asked me what I'd like as a title, and I said writer-in-residence.  It describes me to this day.  I've had two sabbaticals since I came, each one worth a million dollars.  Sabbatical is so supremely valuable, right, and good that I have to think Rick Scott will stomp it out of existence because it isn't "good business."  Well, neither is a greed tumor on Wall Street so advanced it gave a generation a look at what a depression could be like (but didn't impact the purveyors of the damage much at all) -- perhaps that's how "good business" works.  Stop.  That was a digression.  I loved the sabbatical.  I wish one for all my friends.  And sabbatical is just the tip of my good luck iceberg.  The people in my life!  The stories that have happened!  The whole amazing world breathing, erupting, rocking, around us.  At 66 for me the cup runs over.

This afternoon around 4:30 I'll settle onto the yoga mat, my daughter nearby.  Tomorrow I'll run at the gym.  Monday, classes will begin again.  It will be a writing and teaching year.  I'm only five years younger than my mother when she died.  My children now are the age I was when I finally woke up to adulthood.  Times now, for them, are not as good as the idyllic sixties and seventies when I came through, more Phil good luck.  Our families need each other more than ever, I think.  This is no time to take my foot off the pedal. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Florida Tech Creative Writing Institute, May 13-17, Melbourne, FL!

Starting this coming weekend and running through the 17 of May, Florida Tech over in Melbourne, FL, will be running its annual weeklong Creative Writing Institute.  See the banner above.  Speaking and holding classes at the institute will be Susan Hubbard, Lynne Barrett, John DuFresne, Michael Lister, and Philip Deaver, your longpinelimited host :-) and in addition special classes will be offered by many of our favorites from the FIT writing faculty.

This will be my third CWI, and Melbourne has always been a great location for the workshop right at the beginning of summer, the Institute's programs are both unique and targeted to the needs of Florida writers, and Marcia Denius, Jason Harris, and the organizing staff are cordial, dedicated, and welcoming.

Prize winning Florida writer Lynne Barrett will be delivering the keynote on Sunday, starting us off and setting the tone for the week.  You can peruse the entire program here (http://411.fit.edu/cwi) and register if you wish at that site as well, but let me just say, if you've never attended and are interested in a productive writerly escape before summer really cranks up, you'd have to look long and hard to find a better venue to get yourself into the writing mood, mode, way, and rhythm.  For writers in the Greater Orlando area, it's just far enough away to be far enough away, and close enough so you're not too far away.  Stop it!  You know what I mean!

If you've never worked with John Dufresne and heard him talk about his writing practice (ironic, witty as hell, and you know it's the truth), this alone is a treat and one major reason why I like to participate at the Institute.  Many of us in our region are familiar with the work and teaching of Susan Hubbard, and being at the Institute to work with her is a guaranteed, no-fail path to inspiring you to the worktable this summer.

You'll note that the dates are coming right up.  Think fast.  Some people like to plan WAY ahead, and this is to those of you who like to act on an impulse, a sudden really good idea.  Look over the materials and come on over after Mother's Day brunch.  Bring your notes, your laptop, buncha Impact 207 Uniball Signos (for the bold dark line and smooth as silk roller ball), your favorite very precious notebook/writing pad, and hang with some writers for a few days.  The link above, and banner above, provide all the contact information (website, phone numbers) you need to decide be there.  It's always fun when representatives from our rockin' Greater Orlando writing community shows up.  Hope to see you there.

NOTE:  Below I've posted the original press release for the Institute, which should give you all the info you need even though it's bad form in a blog!  Have at it.


            Registration is now open for the Fourth Annual Creative Writing Institute of Florida Institute of Technology, to be held on campus May 13 through 17.  This year’s blockbuster line-up of Featured Writers includes Keynote Speaker, Lynne Barrett,  first place winner in  General Fiction for this year’s prestigious Florida Book Award for her recently published book, Magpies.  Barrett has authored three short story collections, is the editor of the Florida Book Review, and teaches Creative Writing at Florida International University.
            Returning Featured Writers, all former Keynote Speakers, are Susan Hubbard (The Season of Risks), John Dufresne (Lousiana Power and Light), and Philip F. Deaver (Silent Retreats). Completing the roster of Featured Writers is award-winning author, Michael Lister, who has published six novels and two short story collections.
            Free, open-to-the-public events will be offered throughout the session, the first of which is the Keynote Speaker’s address, “The Thread of a Story,” on Sunday, May 13 at 2:15 pm in the Denius Student Center on campus.  Prior to the address there will be a reception, registration, and book signing, starting at noon.  Other events to which the public is invited include luncheons and dinners each day with Featured Writers speaking about their works, a Publishing Panel presented by the Featured Writers (May 14 at 4 pm), an Open Mic poetry session (May 17 at 8:45 pm), and a performance of the dramatic works of playwright Troy Jones (May 15 at 5 pm).  A Media Panel will host a discussion on May 16 at 4 pm, followed by Dr. Terry Cronin presenting an Independent Film Screening at 8:45 pm.  All of these free bonus events will be held in the Hartley Room of the Denius Student Center.
            Classes, with a focus on the craft of writing, are being offered mornings, afternoons, and evenings to accommodate registrants’ work and school schedules.  Beginning to advanced writers of all ages have a wide variety of classes from which to choose: Building Strong Fiction; Songwriting; Flash Fiction; Writing Memoirs; Writing Poems; Writing the Novel; Writing Short Stories; Writing for Children; Playwriting; The Literary Thriller; Writers’ Ten Biggest Mistakes; Science Fiction.  Both 3-day and 4-day classes (2 hours/class) are available.  This year, public and private school teachers will receive a 50% discount on enrollment costs.
             Also being offered are one-time lectures: History Writing, Literary Journalism, Publishing in the Internet Age, and Writing for Comics and Film.  For registration and a complete listing of classes, lectures, and bonus events, please visit our website at http://411.fit.edu/cwi. Early registration is advised as class size is limited. 
            The Creative Writing Institute provides a place for writers to feel at home with other writers, a place where they can find and express their own voices, and where in workshops, they can receive valuable feedback and insight; also, area hotels are offering generous discounts for CWI attendees  With its bonus events, which are all free and open to the public, the CWI offers the opportunity for community members to meet some of the best writers writing today, right here on the beautiful Florida Tech campus.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Party! Burrow Press Rolls Out "15 Views..." in Hard Copy

Look!  It's the girl with blue hair! 
Luckily, we can't see the tattoo.  This is the cover of Burrow Press's new book, "15 Views of Orlando," constructed from the serial flash fiction online story project local writers whipped up to celebrate the city.

 Last summer the crew at Urban ReThink/Burrow Press, continued their near obsessive mission to stay deeply connected to the Orlando literary community and really the city-at-large by cooking up an online project, "15 Views of Orlando," an interconnected flash fiction string by 15 very good and not very alike local fiction writers.  Among the stipulations to the contributors was a thematic rule to set the individual stories in familiar or exotic or random unknown places across the town.  Of course, writers were also to connect somehow with previous writers' story lines and pull at least one of them through.  The result was not a story cycle but kind of a story braid.

The drill was that the stories appeared every few weeks on the Burrow Press site.  If you were eighth in line, you didn't really begin your contribution until after number seven was posted, because you were to build on what had come before.  You wouldn't necessarily build on number seven, the one immediately before.  No, no.  Tires ain't pretty, and writers ain't linear.  You might pull through a plot-line from number three, but use a character from number four, a location from number two, and cook a new plot strand from something you noticed shaping up in number seven.  Or whatever.  It was best to take  everything that had come before into account as you began to cook up your own contribution.  You had a week.

I was number twelve, and in my long life I've never written anything in a week!  Trying to do so, in August, just before I left for Shanghai, got me in a giant sweat-down and I was spinning out drafts like a ceiling fan.  How Ryan Rivas (Burrow Press Publisher) and Nathan Holic ("15 Views ..." editor) managed to ride herd on 15 random loose-cannon wholesale neurotic lone wolves and get this thing to actually work could probably be another book.  But let's not get ahead of myself.

Release Party
So Burrow Press made a book of it, the proceeds from which serve their central nonprofit mission of helping Orlando kids.  This coming Tuesday, Jan. 31, 6:00 PM at the local literary community's home base, Urban ReThink, 625 E. Central Blvd. in Thornton Park, EVERYBODY will gather for some conviviality, book buying, writerly and readerly getting together, did I mention book-buying, and the opportunity starting at 7:00 PM to hear John King, Jared Silvia, J Bradley, Hunter Choate, and Ashley Inguanta read from their contributions to the torrid "15 Views . . ." flash fiction braid.  Your interest, presence, and book purchase also helps support Burrow Press itself, Orlando's new pivot spot for the next local literary generation.  Most important, of course, is buying the book, perhaps two or three.  Find out all you need to know at: http://burrowpress.com/burrowing-into-the-new-year/ 

Congratulations to all the writers, Burrow Press, and Urban ReThink for a successful collaboration.  Astounding.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Silent Retreats is now available on Kindle thru Amazon

I'm pleased to announce that, thanks to my publisher the U. of Georgia Press, Silent Retreats is now available on Kindle. The book contains 11 short stories including "Arcola Girls" which appeared in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards after it was accepted by the New England Review and "Silent Retreats," which was first accepted by Kevin McIlvoy at Puerto del Sol. My anti hero Skidmore first appeared in these stories, in serial cameos that frequently acted to take it up a notch, like adding Jack Daniels to your milk. The stories also contain nostalgia, even more than originally I just noticed, as well as an early take on one of my time-honored themes, What happened to men after what happened to women.

Click Here for More Info...