Here’s my Southern Gothic style story “To the Bone” for your ears.
Click here to download or listen.
This audio first appeared on CrimeWAV with guest host Mark L. Berry–my boy! Thanks, Mark!
“To the Bone” was first published in The Booked. Anthology back in 2013. Thanks much to the Booked. Podcast guys, who’re also on Patreon here.
Backstory on the story: I don’t know where this one came from, but I wrote it back in SF about 5 years ago. It feels very Faulkner-influenced and, since I’ve just picked up Go Down, Moses again for the first time in a LONG time, I thought of it. Where did these characters come from, Duncan and Estep? Neither of them PC or forgivable? Perhaps the story “Pantaloon in Black” holds the answer. Also, if you’re looking for a good read you could do a lot worse than to start there.
Anyway, that’s my background on this one and a reading tip for the month.
Thanks for listening! If you’d like to find more of my new audio work, head to my Patreon page here.
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
Tuesday nights this month I’ll be teaching a seminar on the craft of fiction at my new local: The Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop, a new endeavor started by Joy Baglio within the past year. For writers in my new adopted home area of Northampton, MA and its environs, this will be a wonderful new opportunity to meet, write, share, and learn. More here: pioneervalleywriters.org
Fiction Writing: The Craft of Connecting with Readers
In this course, students will focus on writing the kind of clean and gripping prose they’ve loved to read their whole lives. You know the feeling when a sense of reading falls away and you find yourself immersed in a book’s action, tied to the narrator’s struggle, and watching each scene unfold in your mind’s eye? That’s the kind of prose we’ll be working toward creating in this class.
Our 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 we’ll be looking at how writer and reader connect, and build the craft elements necessary to pull readers in and to keep them eagerly turning pages. Students will develop work through exercises in the use of dialogue, visual action, and creating three-dimensional characters in scenes. This class meets four times. Open to writers of all levels and genres.
Signup here: http://www.pioneervalleywriters.org/writing-classes.html