In 1999 I had the good fortune to study with one of my heroes, the novelist and short story writer Denis Johnson. This happened at a workshop put on by the University of Montana at a place called Yellow Bay on Flathead Lake.
I took a two-day train trip out of Boston, on Amtrak, and stepped off a train in Whitefish, Montana, spent the night there, and arranged for someone to drive me the rest of the way to the lake. A couple hours, I think.
During that week I met other writers and had a great time. But the highlight was meeting and actually becoming friends with my hero, Denis Johnson.
He liked the pieces I put up for workshop very much, chief among these “When They Were Calling You in for Dinner.” Late in the week, he took me aside. We walked along the shore of the lake, skipping rocks onto the water. He told me (and here I’m paraphrasing), “if you take care of your craft and focus on writing well, everything else will work out.” He said it much more succinctly, clearly, but that was the heart of it. In short, he gave me the confidence to write. Even more than that, he gave me the seed of a faith that this could work. Not the start, but perhaps a foundation of my belief.
He encouraged me to apply to graduate programs, and a year later I wound up at his alma-mater, the University of Iowa, and the Writers’ Workshop. We corresponded for a few years after that and I had the pleasure of being his Iowa City tour guide when he came to read in 2002.
He was a friend, a teacher, and a great writer–the author of Jesus’ Son and the National Book Award-Winning Tree of Smoke, among others.
And now we have lost him. May Denis Johnson rest in peace.
This summer I searched out the tape I bought of his “craft lecture” at that conference and found it, bought a small auto-reverse cassette walkman with a USB output, and I converted it to audio. I hope you’ll enjoy this. I certainly taught me a lot.
Click here to listen or right-click to download the file: http://shoutengine.com/SethHarwoodCrime/SethHarwoodCrime-1999-denis-johnson-craft-lecture-1999-37622.mp3
Here’s the update. It’s me talking into the box you see at left. You can listen here at Patreon.
In this update I talk about what I’ve been doing here, writing and otherwise, the time constraints and technical challenges of a real writer in the world, and what I’m shooting for and gearing up toward regarding new content for everybody’s ears.
So I’m doing my damnedest and will have more free content for you all soon. Thanks for your support, for listening, for reading, all of it. I’m figuring things out.
I also ask a number of questions over on the Patreon page here and would love your responses, thoughts, feedback. Yours, SH
Now that I’m BACK, it makes sense that I’d start spreading the word. Well, first off pal Mike Bennett dropped this promo onto his latest episode of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That’s right, he’s reading from the good old book! And doing a damn good job of it, too!
He spread this promo:
See what you think, rejoice in the streets and come over to my new Patreon page if you want more goodies, including eBook versions of a new story featuring Snake Eyes from G.I. JOE and an oddly-named head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Ever heard of El Chapo? Well, this one is for you!
Have you wanted to study with me in the past but been put off by the high price tags and fancy reputation of Stanford and Harvard? Well, now’s the time and here’s the way to come study with me for four weeks in March via the site LitReactor. Check out the site and class’s page, think it over, and let me know if you have questions.
Here’s the full course description: You know the feeling when the sense of reading falls away, and you find yourself completely immersed in a book’s action? Seth Harwood is here to teach you how to do just that: Engage.
You’ll learn how to write the kinds of books that connect with the reader so strongly, the act of reading falls away and they find themselves immersed in a book’s action, tied to the narrator’s struggle, watching each scene unfold in their mind’s eye.
The first and possibly most surprising lesson: You don’t need a fascinating, multi-layered outline or a stellar plot concept to write like this. Instead you’ll look at how writers and readers connect, building the craft elements necessary to pull readers in and keep them turning the pages.
Students will develop work through exercises in the use of dialogue, visual action, and creating three-dimensional characters in scenes, examining the books of writers like Michael Connelly, Stacey Richter, and Jim Thompson, as well as craft essays by Stephen King and Frank Conroy. You’ll learn from your predecessors while building a vocabulary of analytical tools. Come on and check it out!
July 24, 2016—Reading at Borderlands Books, San Francisco.
At 3PM that Sunday I’ll be reading a selection from my newest crime novel EVERYONE PAYS!
The lucky patrons at my all-time favorite bookstore: Borderlands Books will also get to ask YOUR BOY those burning questions and get that custom book inscription which makes all my novels just that much more special on your bookshelf!
Borderlands Books is located in San Francisco’s well-known Mission (District). It’s also the place that carried my crime novel JACK WAKES UP before it was picked up by Random House. Borderlands Books is special to the podcast community having hosted podcast authors and continually believing in our audiences LONG BEFORE anyone else. The store, located in San Francisco at 866 Valencia Street is also unique in that it only sells new and used books of the Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Horror genres. Can’t make the event, but you seriously need that autographed edition? It’s covered! The fantastic staff at Borderlands Books are the to take your request! Simply call or email those folks, give them your details and I’ll make sure your personalized hard-cover is safely waiting for you.
Does anyone remember the reading with ‘El Siglericus Maximus’ (the ambitious FDO) at Borderlands Books? If so, I’d love to hear from you, join the Palms Mommas & Palms Daddies Facebook Group and share the memories!
VISIT: Borderlands Books Website and learn about this unique bookstore that sells new and used books and carries only Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery and Horror genres.
What do the first American Private Eyes have in common with classic Jordan “retro” sneakers?
I’m glad you asked, because that’s where I start in my newest essay featured in this month’s edition of Crimespree Magazine. Entitled “From Gunshoes to Gum Soles and Dicks to Kicks”, it’s now available for your inquisitive mind over at: CrimespreeMagDotCom. Read it today, online or wait for the Crimespree Magazine dead-tree edition, to be available in stores near you real soon.
I’ll tell you a secret: you should check out those folks over at Crimespree Magazine. They’re the best at covering my understanding of the World of Crime Fiction. It’s my crime fiction and they’ve got it covered.
Back to my news! In my essay, “From Gumshoes to Gum Soles and Dicks to Kicks”, I get into my own interest in Jordans. How my interest came about and just how many I currently own. What role they play in my writing process? How new protagonist Clara Donner wears her Jordans out on the courts of San Francisco when she plays pickup.
I hope you’ll give it a look over at Crimespree Magazine. Tell ’em YOUR BOY sent you!
The 1995 Classic Jordan XI, the shoe Michael Jordan wore during his BEST NBA SEASON (and my personal pick for best all-time sneaker) goes on sale tomorrow! “Hallelujah!” says this Revivalist… who’s very much interested in purchasing his own pair of the new Navy with GUM SOLES! But good luck buying yourself a pair. These Jordans are a limited release and only a handful of pairs will be sold off to drawing winners! SEE HERE: Visit SneakerNewsDotCom for more pics of the desirable “NavyGum“.
What’s in a name? Coming up with the title for EVERYONE PAYS.
I’m often asked how I come up with my book titles. For my newest novel: EVERYONE PAYS I had no shortage of ideas. Ultimately, one of the main characters from the novel led the way. In Chapter Nine, Father Michael is walking the streets of the Tenderloin and one particular phrase from his internal monologue stood out from all the other possibilities. That’s where it came from, but you’ll have to read Chapter Nine to get the full context as to why this became my book title. Of course, EVERYONE PAYS wasn’t the only title in the running before publication. If you’re interested in learning a little about my creative process and my thoughts about choosing this title, check out this post. It’s a list of all my alternate book titles, and the full story of how EVERYONE PAYS earned its name.
This fall the nice folks at Thomas & Mercer sat me down in front of a camera to create this video describing EVERYONE PAYS in just a few heartbeats. I hope you like it. Sure was fun (and hard) to do. Watch for the smokey emissions coming from my backside as I talk. I swear those weren’t supposed to be visible.
Stay tuned: There’s a second video coming up where I compare EVERYONE PAYS to one of your favorite TV shows… bet you can’t guess which.
Happy to be back in your ear-buds with this interview a la the boys at The Miscreant Hour Podcast. Check out more of their work over at GrindfactorDotCom. In it, we talk about some of my writing influences, what all I’ve been working on, the problems of researching and not researching, and much, much more.
What else can I say? They’re Miscreants. But also readers. Was very cool to get contacted out of the blue by a reader to do this cast. If you’ve read my books and want to come talk, drop a line.
SATURDAY JUNE 27 — If you’re in the Bay Area and want to come out and see YOUR BOY, then I’m excited to say I’ll be returning to Kepler’s Books and their Mystery Day on Saturday June 27, 2016 from 1PM–5PM. I will be hosting my own panel from 2:30PM-4PM, so be there!
This event was organized by the great Keith Raffel and features a LOT of super crime authors, including David Corbett, Paul Draker, Cara Black, Laurie R. King and my buddies Janet Rudolph of the Mystery Readers Journal and Terry Shames, former Author Boot Camper!