Spinning on a Breaking Pinnacle and Other Ways of Looking at Stress

Alan Beyersdorf, Rosemont MFA Creative Writing Graduate

Alan Beyersdorf, Rosemont College MFA Graduate

My graduate creative writing thesis nearly broke me apart. And why shouldn’t it have? Completing the thesis was the hardest thing I have ever undertaken. It was the culmination of twenty years of school: a wide base of knowledge coming to the sharpest point and on that point I balanced. Thesis was a vortex, and I was in the center.

Regardless of all the metaphors I could try to force into this post, the reality is what is most important. Because people handle stress in different ways, I asked a handful of recent Rosemont College grads to share their experiences with stress. I thought the best responses would be healthy ones. Continue reading


An Interview with Michael J. Martinez

mjmauthorpic2Imagine an eighteenth century frigate in the Royal Navy, captained by an honest man serving his king, sailing the high seas –

And crashing into Mars.

Enter the world of The Daedalus Incident, an upcoming science fiction title by Michael J. Martinez which brings together two stories: that of Lt. Thomas Weatherby, captain of the HMS Daedalus in an alternate eighteenth-century British Navy, and that of Lt. Shaila Jain of the futuristic Joint Space Command during an excavation of cave systems on Mars.

When Mike described his debut novel as an “old-school space opera” in which different dimensions converge and collide on Mars.

“I wasn’t trying to do a huge ‘message’ book – I wanted to do a rip-roaring action story,” he said.

His inspiration for Daedalus came from a surprising place: “Ten years ago, I was living in D.C., and I would go to Starbucks to get coffee and look for a job. I saw a poster for [2002 Disney animated film] Treasure Planet and thought, hey, that looks pretty good. But it sucked. I thought, somebody should do this better.”

cover-highresA casual observer could decide Mike definitely did it quite well, indeed: Library Journal selected Daedalus as a Science Fiction/Fantasy Debut of the Month for May and gave it a starred review. Mike’s query for the book was also featured in Writer’s Digest along with his agent, Sara Megibow.

Daedalus is first novel, and a first novel is an education in itself. Mike said his key learning experience while working on Daedalus involved breaking down the structure of the novel into manageable pieces with a plan.

“I can’t sit down and write without a plan. Some people can – more power to them – but I’m too much of a cynical hack,” he said. “By breaking it up into parts, I could easily feel like I was getting somewhere and achieving something. You do notice that in the book – the chapters are almost equal in length.”

While working on his outline for Daedalus, Microsoft Excel was Mike’s weapon of choice for “keeping track of who and what was where” in the novel.

Though he never received formal training in creative writing, Mike has no shortage of writing experience: he worked as a journalist for about 15 years, during which time he covered Wall Street and technology news for the Associated Press and wrote for ABCNews.com.

“In journalism, you hit the ground running and you don’t stop. Leaving journalism helped me find the time, the energy, and the fortitude to sit down and finish a novel. But you learn how to write – my experience helped with writing a story where my formal education was lacking,” he said. “I’m surprised more writers don’t dabble in journalism. It gives you real exposure to people and how they go about their day.”

After the experience of completing a novel, Mike’s advice for aspiring novelists: always make sure to sit down and put words on the page, even if those words aren’t the most perfect ones you’re looking for.

“That first draft, it’s okay if it sucks,” he said. “Working on [Daedalus] meant giving myself the luxury of a bad first draft. You can skip parts, leave placeholders – just keep the flow going and just come back. After the first draft, it rolls so much easier, so it’s important to take the time to write it and don’t be afraid to suck.”

Mike is online at michaeljmartinez.net, where he blogs and updates, and he also Tweets a lot.  If you’re interested in the book, you can find The Daedalus Incident on IndieBound, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

Feliza Casano is the production manager at Rathalla Review and a student in the graduate publishing program at Rosemont College.  You can find her on her website, on Twitter, and at the web magazine Girls in Capes.

One Possible Definition of Poetry

On page 234 of the Longman Dictionary of Poetic Terms, one finds a definition for the word “poem:”

An artistically organized use of language that cannot be replaced with paraphrase.

When I first read this, I was confused. But the more I studied it, the more I came to realize how beautiful it is.

In his 1947 book, The Well Wrought Urn, Cleanth Brooks puts forward an idea he calls the Heresy of Paraphrase. By this, he means that if one tries to summarize a poem, one will always fall short. The full meaning of a poem wriggles out from under whatever one has to say about it. In short, the Heresy of Paraphrase is the mistaken belief that one can summarize a poem.

The Longman Dictionary defines “paraphrase” as:

A restatement of a text using different words in order to clarify or elaborate the text.

This is what Brooks is saying is impossible. In the act of restating a poem, something will be lost. I think the thing that gets lost is the poem.

But what is it that gets lost? What is it that cannot be summarized? Here is where it starts to get interesting. On page 307, the Longman Dictionary defines another term, “texture,” as:

The unparaphrasable elements of a poem.

According to Longman, a poem consists of two parts: the paraphrasable part (the summary) and the unparaphrasable part (the texture).

But what is texture?

I could be glib and say that I could tell you but then I would have to kill you, but that would be a lie—because I can’t tell you—because I don’t know.

As best I can tell, “texture” is the magical part of the poem. The part, as Emily Dickinson says, that “blows the top of your head off.” The “texture” is the particular arrangement of words, lines, and sound in a poem. The particular word choices, the effects that make this collection of words a poem and not a business report. The thing that every poet is (or should be) struggling with every day.

In the definition for “texture,” the Longman Dictionary includes references to many other terms such as aesthetic surface, dramatic structure, form, imagery, irony, lineation, meter, rhyme, rhythm, soundscape, typography, etc. Longman further defines each of these terms in its own right.

In any given poem, these various aspects appear or do not appear in varying degrees. In a Shakespearian sonnet, for example, form, rhyme and rhythm seem to play a larger role than typography. In the Imagists, visual imagery seems to play a dominant role. For the Language Poets, an algorithm may play an important role. For performance poets, sound predominates.

One of the things that makes poetry so enjoyable, at least for me, is this idea that a poem resists paraphrase. Every poem is greater than whatever we can possibly say about it.

I don’t know if I’ve ever actually written a poem that cannot be paraphrased–that is, a poem with texture–but this is what I strive for every day.

Thomas Jay Rush, an MFA student at Rosemont College, has been a house painter, a carpenter, an oil well roustabout, an actuarial analyst, a computer scientist working on graphics supercomputers, and the owner of his own software company. Much later, he figured out what he wanted to do: write poetry and pick flowers like Ferdinand the Bull, which is what he does now with his wife and three children in Southeast Pennsylvania.

From Short Story Writer To Novelist

A 5K race is three miles long. A marathon is 26.2 miles long. In changing from writing short stories to writing a novel, I feel like a 5K runner who suddenly decides that his next race will be a marathon.

I entered Rosemont College’s MFA program as a short story writer. For my final prose workshop, I submitted a fragmented ten page sketch of a story idea. For my next submission, I took my original draft and crafted the skeletal framework of a twenty-five page story. During the in-class review of this second draft, my instructor said she wouldn’t mind spending more time with these characters. Over the next semester, this story grew to over seventy pages in length, with room for expansion. At some point, I couldn’t deny it. I was writing a novel.

For the writer hoping to make the same transition, I can offer two pieces of advice that has helped me make this transition.

A race has a beginning and an end, much like a novel. For me personally, I was fortunate to have the beginning and ending of my novel come to me in that second draft. But even if you don’t have that experience, you can establish your starting and finish lines.

If you’re writing literary fiction, how do you want your characters to change over the course of your novel? Where do you want them to start from? Where do you want them to end up? Ebenezer Scrooge begins Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol as a greedy miser, and ends the novel with the spirit of Christmas in his heart.

If you’re writing a plot-driven novel, what is at stake? What question do you want answered? Let’s take Batman, for example. The Joker has escaped from prison and wants to blow up Gotham City. What is at stake? The lives of everyone in Gotham City.  What question will be answered? Can Batman stop the Joker from blowing up Gotham City?

These are two very different examples, but they show how important knowing where you are starting from and knowing where you are going in writing a novel.

But even knowing where you are starting from and where you want to go, if a long short story is fifty pages in length and a short novel is two hundred, that’s a pretty big difference. How does transitioning from a short story writer manage all those extra miles, or in this case, pages in between?

A short story is a sprint. A novel is a marathon. You have to pace yourself. Breaking the novel down into smaller parts will make it less intimidating. Just as the marathoner takes one mile at a time, a new novelist should take one scene or chapter at a time. When you finish one scene or chapter, move on to the next. You can even do this in terms of page count. As long as you set a smaller goal within the larger goal of writing a novel.

If you follow these two pieces of advice, much like a runner, you will experience what I call the “novelist’s high” as the page number count grows in the corner of your screen.

Daniel McCole is a Master’s degree candidate in the Creative Writing program at Rosemont College.  He is currently working on his thesis, a novel.

For writers, hearing voices may not be a bad thing.

I’ve often heard writers liken the writing process to sculpting—they birth their characters from the clay or marble of their imaginations, while carving and smoothing their plot and form. I can relate to this technique, but most of the time I feel like I’m using taffy instead of clay to create my masterpiece. I tug, pull, and twist this tacky foodstuff to assemble some sort of unique voice and original tale. It’s a labor of love, but it often creates a bit of a sticky mess.

As I stretch my story from this arduous process, one element that I actually enjoy is listening to my characters while they whisper from the sweet icky muck. I eavesdrop on them, or they speak to me, often before their story takes shape. I hear them chatting with one another even before I know their names; they argue, they tell jokes, they draw me into their existence. Soon, I’m scrambling for a piece of paper, a somewhat sharpened pencil, or a newfangled electronic i-something to tap out what they’re saying.

Sometimes I pretend I don’t hear them. They don’t like that very much. They repeat themselves, going on and on about the doctor’s appointment that they went to where they heard the news that I should write down, or how they went food shopping and got into a fender-bender with someone they’re related to, but that’s not important right now—what is important is that I’d better get all of this down as soon as I get out of the shower or they’ll be repeating it to me all day.

Sometimes, after I’ve taken their dictation, they go away for a while and leave me with a blinking cursor, or a series of scribbled questions marks while I wait for their next conversation. Sometimes I grow impatient and try to speak for them. I feel like I know them after spending all those mornings in the shower or riding in the car listening to them. They’ve gone away and left me with a great big blob of pink taffy that I’ve started to mold, and now what am I supposed to do with it? I think to myself, “I can take it from here—I know just what to do with them.”

That’s usually when I run into trouble. They eventually come back and murmur “That is not what I meant at all, That is not it, at all.” (love you, T. S.). Sometimes when they try to rewrite what I’ve done, I flat out ignore them, and other times I protest, telling them, “But it would be so great if you did A, B, and C, and that way she can do X, and he can do Y and then I can end with a strong Z!” But the characters and the taffy often have other things in mind, and with enough patience and practice, I learn to work with them to create the story that they’re trying to tell.

Michaelangelo saw himself as merely freeing the statue that was already imprisoned in a block of marble. As a writer, am I freeing the characters that are trapped in my chewy candy? The more I write, the more I realize that I agree with him when he said “A beautiful thing never gives so much pain as does failing to hear and see it.” I’m grateful to be able to hear the beautiful voices of my characters, and sometimes through the pain and the taffy, and with enough time and practice, they emerge.

Maria Ceferatti is an MFA student at Rosemont College, a music teacher in the Philadelphia area, and the music director of Acting Without Boundaries-a theater group for performers with physical disabilities. Her work has been published in Philadelphia Stories, The Artistic Rebuttal Project, Apiary, and Matilda Ziegler Magazine.

Bad Housekeeping and Good Writing

In our house it’s my job to keep the refrigerator stocked; I do the job poorly. Take, for example, the lunch meat compartment which is overflowing with partially-opened, month-old packages of cheese, ring baloney, turkey breast and other unmentionables. It reminds me of how I go about writing.

My son, Nate, and I were laying around the other day when it got to be lunchtime. I told him I’d make him a sandwich. I thought it would be easy because the lunch meat container was full and, surprisingly, we had some bread in the house. I opened the refrigerator, ignoring the smell, and began searching through the lunch meat drawer. I found a large number of empty wrappers. Near the bottom I found a package of a meat-like substance that looked like turkey breast. I set it on the counter.

I continued searching and found two packages of cheese, Provolone, each sporting a round patch of fuzzy green mold. I threw those out before Nate noticed. Beneath the moldy cheese was another package of cheese that had not been opened. I tossed that on the counter as well.

I dug up a jar of mayonnaise that someone had forgotten to re-lid. I determined that if I scraped away the hardened crust around the edges there might be some fresh stuff underneath. The spicy brown mustard looked pretty good.

It wasn’t until I began making the sandwich that I realized the turkey breast had flown the coop, so to speak. It had gone to meet its maker. The word “funky” floated into my mind. I glanced at my son—he was engrossed in a book—I slipped the meat into the trash.

Undaunted, I proceeded to make a Provolone, mustard and mayonnaise sandwich on rye bread. I handed Nate his sandwich and sat down beside him. I had coffee, he had milk. (The milk is always fresh in our house—how disgusting otherwise.)

His first reaction was “yuck,” probably because of the lack of any discernable meat, but he chewed, swallowed, and looked at me, and then said, “Nice,” and then a few seconds later, “Wow, that’s really good.”

Somehow, this conglomeration of mustard, rye bread, and cheese, without any interfering meat had a lovely flavor. The initial shock of the first bite was a off-putting, but the aftertaste, the combination was really quite tasty.

Without speaking, Nate and I sat and enjoyed our lunch.

So, how is this like my writing? Or, more accurately, how do I wish it were like my writing?

Perhaps the refrigerator is my computer. Perhaps the lunch meat draw is the file folder in which I keep my partially completed bits of writing. The crusty mayonnaise jar is grammar, which can be old and disgusting, but, if handled properly, can add zing to a piece. The mustard is word choice. Sharp sometimes like brown mustard, smooth at other times, like honey mustard, depending on your mood. Rye bread is the story itself—the content—the stuff that holds your word choices, grammar, and cheese together.

The cheese must be the ideas you pile onto the bread.

But the truly elusive thing, the thing that I want my writing to be noted for, is that initial “yuck” and then that wonderful, long-lasting aftertaste. That surprising, “wow—all this shit, piled up together, somehow tastes pretty good.”

Keeping your lunch meat container full, your mayonnaise crusty, and your cheese just this side of going bad, might be the trick.

Thomas Jay Rush, an MFA student at Rosemont College, has been a house painter, a carpenter, an oil well roustabout, an actuarial analyst, a computer scientist working on graphics supercomputers, and the owner of his own software company. Much later, he figured out what he wanted to do: write poetry and pick flowers like Ferdinand the Bull, which is what he does now with his wife and three children in Southeast Pennsylvania.

An Author Interview with Amy Greene


Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot, has a great love for writing that is immediately evident. She has been a natural storyteller since before she could pick up a pencil and knows that writing is a part of her. Greene finds that the cold screen and the blinking cursor lack the intimacy that can be found in just putting pen to paper, so she begins all of her work by writing it out longhand. She finds it is easiest and more natural to just get it all out with a pen and paper as she does her initial writing in notebooks while cozy in bed.

Once she started working on Bloodroot, Greene quickly realized that it was a story that she wanted to take all the way and see published. She realized, “When I started writing it I didn’t even know what it was. I just felt moved to write it.” She wrote many character sketches in the voices of the characters until she discovered her main character of Bloodroot, Myra.

Greene found pieces of friends, family, and herself reflected in certain characters throughout the novel as she believes we write what we know. The same is true for the Appalachian dialect that can be found within Greene’s novel. It is one that she found simple to write in as she grew up surrounded by the sound of similar speech. What became difficult was during the editing stages having to tone it down and be more deliberate in her choices

Assuming her first novel would be a practice starter novel, Greene had no hope of getting it published. However, after working on Bloodroot for a year, Greene went to the Sewanee Writers Convention in 2007 with her nearly finished first draft. There she met Jill McCorkle, a North Carolina author, who told Greene she would introduce her to an agent once she finished the first draft. Greene quickly finished her first draft upon returning home, fearing that McCorkle would forget her if she took too long. McCorkle sent her finished manuscript to Leigh Feldman, and Greene was mortified that this powerhouse literary agent was reading her first draft. She had no hope that Feldman would respond quickly. After only two months of waiting, Greene finished her novel, was accepted by a known agent, and signed a book deal from August to November in what is an amazing feat for a first novel and a testament to the rare quality found within her work. What proceeded from this point was a “trial by fire” for Greene as she filled the next year with the editing of her novel. During this time she discovered a sink or swim attitude that pushed her to finish her novel and create a book that remained her own throughout the many revisions.

Greene’s second novel, Long Man, is to be very different from the first, and calls for a much bigger scoop. Knowing her capabilities, Greene’s editor continues to push her in her writing to reach higher for vision and add new layers and depth to this second novel. Greene started writing scenes first, but eventually had to go back to her old ways and created developed character sketches first. She realized, “Characters are the beating heart of any story and the plot is what happens to them. And if you don’t care what happens to them, then you don’t have a story at all.” As she continues to write, Greene many times finds herself fully immersed in the story and not separate at all. She discovered, “There are times when I’ve been writing it that I felt like I was reading. That the pen disappeared and the paper disappeared and it felt like I’m reading the story instead of writing the story. That’s how lost I’ve become in it.” She hopes that this passion will translate to the reader once the time comes. The expected release date for her second novel, Long Man, is summer 2014.

For beginning writers that are working on the first novel, Greene had some sensible advice which is proven true by her own success. “If your work is ready to be seen, you have to show it,” proclaims Greene. If writing is what you are compelled to do, and you will know it by your inability to stop writing, then there is nothing to do but keep going. Even through the dark hours, it will become natural to preserver. Whether you quit for an hour or ten years, if writing is in your heart, it is something that will not let you go and you will pick it back up when you are ready. Greene stopped writing during the years she was raising her two children, but just couldn’t stay away from it. It came back to her and it will always come back to one that is called. Once she picked it back up she just kept going, and she has found there is nothing more rewarding and beautiful in the world than to have your calling realized.

About the Author: Amy Greene was born and raised in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, where she lives with her husband and two children. Her debut novel Bloodroot was published by Alfred A. Knopf January 12, 2010. Her second novel, Long Man, is forthcoming also from Knopf. You can visit her website at AmyGreeneAuthor.com.

Morgan Hawk is from East Tennessee and graduated from Maryville College with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a minor in Appalachian Studies. She is currently studying for her Master of Arts in Publishing from Rosemont College while interning for a medical publisher in Philadelphia.

Interview: Rob Dickenson

Robin Gorneau: Hello Rob. For full disclosure to editors considering printing this interview, I’ve known you since the mid 70s. You are a music teacher, singer, songwriter and musician, and I have been a big fan of yours since your Get Right Band days. I love your original music and have two of your CDs. I’ve seen you perform countless times. I read the Diary of Doses content available on Amazon.com and think the writing is truly original and compelling. As soon as I get an eReader I’m going to purchase the ebook. With all that covered, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Rob Dickenson: I’m glad to have this interview opportunity and start promoting the book.


Rob Dickenson is a Philadelphia-area singer-songwriter and poet. Learn more at http://www.robdickenson.com/.

RG: I love the alliteration and imagery in the title. Would you like to describe how the title came about?

RD: It was all related to the topic and just worked that way. Rather than write what’s inspired by the day, I wrote about the singular topic. I write, and rewrite and this book has been rewritten many times over the years. Let me quote F. Scott Fitzgerald from a letter he wrote to his daughter that, “The art of writing is writing and rewriting.” Even in music this is the case. You know I’ve been playing in bars for decades and I witness people’s behavior and I‘m also a participant with all that it is, and I wanted to make this poetry honest. If you are couched in the English language it reflects what I’ve seen and what other people have done. It just came to me, going to a gig and it came to me: write about what I witness. I was inspired by the drunks in a bar one evening and the idea to write poetry about alcohol and drug excesses, and Diary of Doses came to me. And, God bless these people, they’ve been paying my rent for years.

RG: Your voice in your poems really comes through loud and clear to me. It might be that I’m very familiar with your original songs and writing style but poetry isn’t the genre I associate with your writing. How long had you been considering a poetry project?

RD: About ten years. It started and stalled time after time because I put my energy into writing songs, gigging, and having a family and children. I kept the text and wanted to write about a centered, central subject, so I kept all these notes and pages. I considered this book for a long time and centered the subject on drunks, on alcohol and drug abuse. I’m considering another book of prose now. The approach will be the same, true to my voice. I stick to what I know and I write about that. This was a decade-long project, writing, rewriting, editing, and then trying to get published. I rewrote, honed, and wrote some more. Now I want to get some eyeballs on it.

RG: How many full edits did you do of the work? What did that process entail?

RD: Can’t count! I reread it and some of the descriptions were not clear enough, the humor was not right. Song, prose, poem, you can’t write about things for which you have no knowledge, at least I can’t. I have to write about what I know. I have plenty of topics to write about. At this point in my life I want to write about what I know. I’m considering playing in bars more often this year because it took some time but now I know how my voice works and I’m ready to play out again and keep writing books.

RG: Did some of these poems evolve from songs you haven’t yet published?

RD: Well, there is actually one song-poem, Keep Your Nose Clean, about cocaine, from when I was in Life After Elvis. I’ve tried to have a sense of humor in my songs and these poems. I didn’t want to preach in these poems. I don’t see anything necessarily “bad” in inebriation, I just don’t preach to do it or not do it. I don’t do it myself but I use a sense of humor about presenting it truthfully. Humor keeps you, me, from pointing your finger and judging someone. People go to bars and I observe them. People don’t go to bars for religion. They go for flirting, conversation, drinking, and making connections. What gives you or me the authority to judge them? Well, sometimes it’s whiskey-driven authority. But it’s the audiences, the performing that inspires my songs and poems. You know, some of the most serious topics in the world are addressed with humor. A writer doesn’t necessarily have to take a point of view but paint / write / present the experience. Just tell the tale well and the lessons will become apparent.

Years ago I wrote a funny song about masturbation but masturbation is the hidden topic and it’s a funny song called, It’s Me I Can’t Forget. The lyric is, “Close the door Mom, it’s me I can’t forget.” You let the audience interpret the words, the audience lights the kindling that is the song and see if it flames up.

RG: When did you start writing the content?

RD: It was ten years ago. I write a lot; when I’m in the passenger seat on the way to a gig I’m writing. That’s extra time I find to write.

RG: I know firsthand that you are a great collaborator and leader because I’ve seen you perform in several bands over the years. Were you simultaneously excited and cautious about writing solo for a new genre and possibly a new audience?

RD: Yes. And a little unsure which is why it may have taken me so long to write it. I read a lot, all forms of literature. I love words, reading, authors, and I refine what I write and getting good at the process comes with age. In my youth I was comfortable with words, but my ability and confidence with words came with age. Taking your time and rewriting is where confidence comes from, I keep examining the work. I wanted to make sure my first poetry project was right for me, right from my end, and polished properly.

RG: OK, the topic of alcohol and drug abuse. These subjects and images are pretty much the opposite of poetry, but you make it work brilliantly. Were you always confident that the intersection of substance abuse and poetry would work for Diary of Doses?

RD: Yes, because that’s how it came out. It’s not that I was confident; it’s how it came out. The whole thing, if I wasn’t limited by sentence structure, if I could use abbreviated sentence structure, poetry would work. I wasn’t writing a self help book, I was observing the universe of the bar scene, these people do drugs, they drink too much. I’m not judging them; that’s not my job. My job is to observe and write. My songs rhyme, my poems don’t. It’s still truncated language and poetry seemed like the right format for this observation.

RG: How did you find your publisher?

RD: Eric Luft is the publisher. He came to my attention on Facebook. He was a fan of The Get Right and had left comments about Get Right on Facebook. I looked him up and saw he has an independent publishing press, which interested me. I liked the idea of working with an independent press versus a publishing house. Eric is a profession of English at University of Rochester and music was the initial connection. I didn’t want to send an unsolicited manuscript around to publishers, so I knew Eric well enough to approach him with the idea to publish my book.

Current poetry doesn’t seem to take on profound subjects or meaning. When I thought the book was ready I sent him a copy. He said he’d be glad to publish it. I have had poems published in literary journals based in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, but it was a single writing project. I wanted these poems published together as a cohesive text.

RG: How are you promoting the book?

RD: Just starting to do that now. I’m planning on doing newspaper interviews such as this one. This is poetry but it’s not quite like traditional poetry. It has a different angle. It has modern language and eccentricities. And, I want to do interviews with publishers and writers interested in just ebooks. I’m going to start playing bars and clubs and integrating my poetry in the performances. I’m working this year to contact promoters who are personally involved with the artists they hire and are willing to promote an event as a music gig with a poetry slam to help get the work out about Diary of Doses. A music gig with a poetry slam will not draw a million people in one shot, it’s chunks of people, and bit by bit.

RG: Do you feel you were prepared to publish a book?

RD: No, my spirit was not prepared to self publish. I didn’t want the struggle that sometimes comes with first time authors seeking a publisher, but I knew it was good enough poetry to be published.

RG: Did your publisher ask you to submit a book proposal including your platform?

RD: As I said there was a previous connection through my music and the publisher knew my songs, he knew Get Right. There was an advantage that he knew my songs and had that familiarity with my writing. Eric works in the world of literature, was familiar with me and my songs, owned an independent press, so this was a good fit.

RG: What was your publishing experience like?

RD: A good experience, supportive and encouraging. I can see how it would be very trying and difficult with unsolicited manuscripts especially with a writer venturing into virgin territory. The door kind of opened for me because Eric knew my music.

RG: I know you are very well read and love books. Who are you reading now?

RD: Just finished A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh; I’m revisiting poet Charles Bukowski, and Karl Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul. I’ve always been fascinated by the three fathers of modern psychology: Freud, Jung, and Wilhelm Reich. Reich wrote The Murder of Christ and The Mass Psychology of Fascism. I like to read a few things at once, mix things up.

Which reminds me, I tried out for Jeopardy! and made the finals in 2004. I studied and read everything I could get my hands on for a year. I was surrounded by books on geography, history, philosophy, English. Only five of us made the final cut from the Philly tryouts but none of us ever made the show because Ken Jennings never lost that year! I stopped watching Jeopardy! as a result. I’m not trying to get on the show again, I passed the test once. It’s like trying to date the same girl after she told you you were ugly. Some things you do not revisit.

RG: Are you working on another book presently, in any genre?

RD: I’m actually finishing up a children’s book of twelve chapters; eight are written and four are songs. It’s about animals that are indigenous to the Brandywine River. I’m finishing the song recordings now. The book is finished and I still need to complete the graphics, working with my wife Mary Fischer. In another children’s book I’m writing, the central character is an animal and there is a local connection to Lenape Park.

I remember an historian named Chris Sanderson, he was a big influence on my life and music. He was a local story teller who came to my elementary school. He was the first person I saw get into a character. There is a Chris Sanderson museum in Chadds Ford. If I perform readings from this book I’m going to dress in character the way Chris did.

I’m framing my next book, GIGS. It’s all about my experiences meeting musicians, stage managers, promoters, fans, and club owners. I’m styling it with humor and I want to incorporate humor in the story in modern Mark Twain style. I want my sense of humor to be the foundation for GIGS. I’d like to write a series of articles first and then publish the stories as the book. I may publish a book of lyrics. I can see myself writing a story or book about being the father of twin boys. Being a father is a great pleasure and sustains me. My kids constantly renew my faith in people. I leave them my songs and my artistic legacy. I know my creative genetic code is left behind.

Don’t assume that because something is famous it’s good and likewise, don’t assume that something unknown is worthless. Artists struggle. Sometime it’s a struggle just to keep going. You think people should be there for you. Sometimes one person strikes a creative fire in an artist. It’s important to make an effort, to keep at it. Experience makes you, an artist better. If you’re a fan keep supporting the artists you enjoy; painters, songwriters, musicians. We all need to keep going. The artist’s struggle is valuable in itself. You can’t be at the party if you don’t participate and struggling is part of the equation.

RG: I would imagine that having all your writing experience is a tremendous confidence builder when venturing into a new genre. While writing these poems, did you ever get stuck in the writing process?

RD: Sure, oh, yeah. It’s not just stuck, now I’m writing my memories for GIGS. I’m remembering funny stories, creating the structure of the book, and I’m thinking I’m gonna’ hit this, and then I get a call to work as a stage manager the weekend of Obama’s inauguration. That interrupted my writing for three days, and while I’m glad for the work and glad that it was a musical event, it did stop the writing process. I worked 17 hours a day and didn’t have time to write. I have to get back into the writing frame of mind again and the stories will come.

Daily life interrupts my writing; I have kids and they keep me grounded, keep me on a schedule. Real life keeps you honest in your writing. Just keeping my wood burning stove going keeps me honest. That’s life and I write best when I write about what I know.

RG: OK, to summarize, did technology help or hinder you with writing and publishing Diary of Doses?

RD: Well, with the writing I originally wrote this all on paper. As I started using computers more it helped me edit the content. I don’t like staring at the screen so much but I do like working on and editing the printed content. Now, this is an ebook so I appreciate what technology gives us. I’m not a slave to technology but I do like that it worked in my favor.

Diary of Doses is available in B&N Nook format and on all electronic formats. Read an excerpt from Amazon.com here.

Publisher: Gegensatz Press; 1 edition (November 10, 2012)