Tilar J. Mazzeo: Irena’s Children: A True Story of Courage

October 17, 2016 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

Irena’s Children: A True Story of Courage – 9781476778501 – Gallery Books – Hardcover – $26 – ebook versions available at lower prices.

Author Tilar Mazzeo is a terrific storyteller, who took on the task to tell the world about an inspiring, heroic and terrifying story with this book, the true story of one woman who, with a network of associates, saved 2,500 Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II. The main subject of the book is Irena Sendler, who was a young social worker in Warsaw, living in a socially and politically progressive milieu, when the Germans began World War II by invading Poland.

Poland, of course, was quickly defeated by the larger and more modern German army. The conquered country’s resources, human and otherwise, were turned toward the use of the German war effort, with hundreds of thousands of Poles used as slave laborers as their country was occupied by a brutal military regime. And the Germans then began their concerted efforts to destroy the large Jewish population of that country. While many Poles opposed the Nazis, with partisans fighting them from the outset of the war, some Poles were active collaborators with the Fascists, and many more simply did their best to survive under impossible conditions.

Some Poles risked everything to rescue Jews from the near total eradication of that community that the Germans sought.

Irena Sendler and a close circle of her friends and work associates undertook what we now can recognize as an heroic effort to save some of the children of the Warsaw ghetto. For almost four years, they took immense risks and dangers upon themselves and their families, to rescue innocents from the horrors they could see were happening all around them.

While everything in this book reads like a terrifying, fast-paced novel, Mazzeo has pieced together a completely true story of unimaginable heroism by many “regular” citizens of Poland. Irena Sendler, together with the help of a network of local people and the Jewish resistance, was able to save upwards of 2,500 Jewish children from likely death in the brutal concentration camps to which most Polish Jews were sent. Irena herself went back and forth into the Jewish ghetto, sneaking children out in a myriad of ways, and then found refuge for the children with local Polish families, convents, churches and farmers.

It was an incredible effort. Irena Sendler knew the terrible risks – she was at one point brutally tortured by the Gestapo – but also knew she could not fail to act.

It is incredible that she and so many of her cohorts survived the war. But then, of course, she and Poland had to survive the takeover of her country by the Soviets, and that meant that the story of her wartime heroism could not be told until long after the war had ended. Mazzeo’s effort here to celebrate and tell this amazing story is extraordinary, and much appreciated. Irena Sendler and her network of heroes serves as inspiration and constant reminder that we “regular citizens” must be prepared to face moral choices at any time, sometimes with dire consequences. So many good people were killed in this terrible war.

It is impossible to read this book and not wonder how any of us would have responded then. And of course we must each ask our selves honestly, how will we respond when our time to act is upon us?

I really enjoyed reading this book. It brought up powerful emotions and important questions. Mazzeo is both a fine writer and a terrific researcher, and in this book displays both those talents in full flower. We had a really interesting conversation about this book. There is so much in it I did not want to discuss in detail, so readers will be able to have the full experience of the book for themselves, but we had much to talk about nonetheless.

Tilar Mazzeo is the Clara C. Piper Associate Professor of English at Colby College, in Waterville, Maine. She is the author of numerous works of narrative nonfiction, including the New York Times bestselling The Widow Clicquot.

There’s a wonderful portrait of Sendler, written while she was still alive here and a website devoted to her life and story called Life in a Jar.irena-sendler-in-a-nurses-outfit-during-wwii_6110710895_o-226x30067071f_6a1d197c9c954c6184997bd0cfee928b-mv2

David Wilk interviews Peter Costanzo of Associated Press


costanzo-photoPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve wanted to talk with people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is so influenced by technology, within the larger context of a change across human civilization.

This series has expanded to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

Back in 2011 I spoke with my friend Peter Costanzo, who even then was one of the most experienced and knowledgeable digital thinkers in the book industry. Five years later, as digital publishing has evolved and to some extent stabilized, I thought it would be useful to speak to him again to benefit from his perspective as an active participant in this aspect of our industry.

Peter is now the Digital & Archival Publishing Manager for The Associated Press. He is an award-winning book producer who also teaches the “New Media Technology: Formats and Devices” course at NYU.

Peter is also now known for being the person who taught Donald J. Trump (yes that guy) how to use Twitter! This story was widely reported earlier this year, gaining Peter considerable attention and perhaps, notoriety. Here is what the AP said in its story:

Costanzo crossed paths with Trump in 2009 when he was working as online marketing director for the publisher putting out the businessman’s book, “Think Like a Champion.” Twitter was still in its infancy at the time. But Costanzo saw the 140-character-per-message platform as a new tool that the real estate mogul could use to boost sales and reach a broader audience.

He was given seven minutes to make his pitch to Trump — “Not five minutes, not 10,” Constanzo said — in a boardroom at Trump Tower in Manhattan that appeared to be the same one used on Trump’s reality television show.

Trump liked what he heard.

“I said, ‘Let’s call you @RealDonaldTrump — you’re the real Donald Trump,'” Costanzo said. “He thought about it for a minute and said, ‘I like it. Let’s do it.'”

Our talk for this occasion focused on much more serious and meaningful matters, however.

You can follow Peter on Twitter @PeterCostanzo and Writerscast @writerscast.

Clara Bingham reading from Witness to the Revolution

September 19, 2016 by  
Filed under AuthorsVoices

clara-binghamWitness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul
9780812993189 – Random House – Hardcover – $30

I interviewed Clara Bingham about her terrific and important book, Witness to the Revolution for Writerscast.  You can listen to that interview here. When she was in the studio, I took the opportunity to ask her to read from her book as well. Here is that terrific selection. Of course if you like what you hear, you can buy the audio book and listen to the whole thing.

And if voices from the sixties is of interest, there is a wealth of such material online. There’s a great collection of interviews with sixties era radicals and activists at Winthrop University, for example, and much, much more to be found and heard.


Clara Bingham: Witness to the Revolution

September 19, 2016 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

witness-to-the-revolutionWitness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul
9780812993189 – Random House – Hardcover – $30 – (ebook versions available at lower prices)

There have been many books written about the politics and culture of the sixties, but I don’t think there has ever been a book quite like this one.

Clara Bingham is a journalist who grew up just a bit too young to join in the festivities of what is now known as “The Sixties.” That term is actually a misnomer, as most of us know, since the decade of turbulence and strife really started in the mid-sixties and ended, more or less, with the close of the Vietnam War in 1975. However it is measured, and measuring time periods in history is never easy or altogether clear, that time was full of energy, social discord, cultural change, political engagement, joy and tragedy.

Ms. Bingham had relatives and family members who were old enough to participate actively in the youth culture explosion of that time, and we are lucky that their experiences inspired her interest in this historically significant era. She took upon herself a seriously daunting task, to try to understand what happened in the culture through the words of some of its key participants. It’s an altogether brilliant, inspiring effort.

She has chosen to focus on a single year to create a lens through which to see America in the throes of cultural upheaval. The book covers the period from August 1969 to August 1970, during which there were nine thousand protests and eighty-four acts of arson or bombings across the country. It was an incredible year, one that included so many key events of the time, both at home and abroad, including the rise of the Weather Underground, the invasion of Cambodia, Woodstock, May Day in New Haven, and the massacre at Kent State – and so much more.

As an active member of the counter culture myself in those halcyon years, this book brought back many memories, and reminded me of some of the things I’d forgotten about, as well as some of the people who were so important to us in those years. There’s so much in this book, there are some events and people I had not even thought about for almost 45 years. The first-hand accounts included in this book are important and powerful. These reminiscences can help us understand an era that is so much with us still – both culturally and politically. This book can help us understand why America is still in the throes of cultural and political upheaval, and is so culturally divided. While there were many failures in the sixties, and many terrible things done in the name of good intentions and beliefs, we are awash in the cultural forces unleashed then. The baby boomers who created the youth culture of the sixties are aging out of the population now, but the effects of that time continue to reverberate today.

There is so much of importance to be found in this book. I was really pleased to have a chance to speak to Clara about Witness to the Revolution. It’s an incredible effort and I hope it will help spur further conversations about the Sixties and what we can learn from that incredible era.

If you want to listen to Clara reading from the book, there’s a short segment over in Author’s Voices.clara-bingham2

David Wilk interviews Lee Klancher of Octane Press

September 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Publishing History, PublishingTalks

leeklanchersmallPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. I’ve talked with publishing industry leaders about how publishing has and will continue to evolve and now include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve had conversations with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and present. This series of talks continues to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing.

For the past several years, I’ve been talking to editors and publishers of independent presses about their work. Many of them have been literary publishers. But there are a number of really excellent independent presses that have achieved success in other subject areas. It usually requires being specialized and knowledgeable about a specialized field, and being integral to a specific community of enthusiasts and readers, to find and sustain success.

Octane Press is one such endeavor. This fine publisher focuses on cars, farm machines, motorsports and motorcycles. This may seem a relatively narrow niche of readers, but it is one that works well for this publisher. Founded by photographer, writer and editor Lee Klancher, Octane Press is an excellent example of how to successfully build a print-based publishing business in the modern era. The company has won an array of awards, and has grown steadily since it began. I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to talk to Lee about his work and the story of Octane Press, and I think listeners interested in contemporary publishing will find his story compelling and his experience valuable.

Lee Klancher has been publishing great stories for more than twenty years. As an editor and publisher, he has worked on some of the most-respected and best-selling books in transportation publishing. He is a prolific author and an excellent photographer, and has contributed content to more than 30 books, as well as dozens of national magazines including Men’s Journal, Draft, and Motorcyclist.

Lee has taught writing and photography at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is best-known for his photography of collectible farm tractors that appears in his books and calendars. Lee lives in Austin, Texas, where Octane Press is located. 9781937747152-X2CX6A0645

George Gmelch: Playing With Tigers, A Minor League Chronicle of the Sixties

August 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

george-gmelch-playing-wth-tigers9780803276819 – University of Nebraska Press – 288 pages – Hardcover – $26.95 (ebook versions available at roughly similar prices)

Today, George Gmelch is a successful anthropologist, with a number of books to his credit. But when he was a young man, he was a very good baseball player, with the typical dreams so many shared of becoming a professional baseball player and making it to the Major Leagues. Growing up in an all-white suburb in California in the late fifties and early sixties, George led a fairly sheltered childhood, playing ball and having fun. In 1965 he signed a contract to play professional baseball with the Detroit Tigers organization and so began a four year period of coming of age, during which George experienced the challenges of life in baseball’s minor leagues.

While learning to be a professional athlete, he also became aware of the realities of race and class; minor league baseball in the nineteen sixties was often played in small towns in the south where segregation was still in effect, despite the advances of the civil rights movement. And as an adolescent on his own with other boys in the cocoon like world of pro sports, he also had his first experiences of sex and romance, living, traveling and playing ball. Somewhat unlike most of his teammates, George paid attention to the events of the era, including the Vietnam War, the rise of the counter culture, and civil rights protests.

Playing with Tigers is a memoir certainly unlike most others written by baseball players. The sixties was a time of turmoil involving young people of all backgrounds and professional baseball was not immune from its disruption. George was likely more socially aware than most of his compatriots, and his direct experience of racial issues ultimately led to the end of his professional baseball career.

To write this book, George relied on the journals he kept as a player, as well as letters from that time, and in addition he used his skills and experience as an anthropologist to interview thirty former teammates, coaches, club officials – and even some former girlfriends. This is a unique story, documenting a socially disrupted period in American history through the lives of many of the young people who lived through it. We get to experience first hand the naivete, frustrations and joys of a young man trying to find his way in a complex time. And clearly, some of the motivation for writing this book was unfinished business, events, relationships with people, his baseball experience, on which George wanted to gain some closure.

I read alot of baseball books, as many listeners know. Among the many I have read the past couple years, I found Playing With Tigers extremely compelling, and one I had fun reading. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to speak with George Gmelch for the second time – in 2013, George and I talked for Writerscast about another of his baseball books, Inside Pitch. In addition to being an intensely personal memoir, Playing With Tigers opens a door to a period in our history that deserves a lot more exploration than it seems to have been given. George has some great stories and a deep understanding and love for the people and places he’s experienced. This is a fine book and you do not need to know anything about baseball to like it.

George Gmelch is a professor of anthropology at the University of San Francisco and at Union College in Schenectady, New York. His books include In the Ballpark: The Working Lives of Baseball People, with J. J. Weiner (Bison Books, 2006), and Inside Pitch: Life in Professional Baseball (Bison Books, 2006). He is the editor of Baseball without Borders: The International Pastime (Nebraska, 2006). His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Psychology Today, Society, and Natural History.baseballtalk_gmelchGmelch

David Wilk interviews Brooke Warner of She Writes Press

July 19, 2016 by  
Filed under PublishingTalks, The Future

Brooke Warner-2016-squarePublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and will continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

I really enjoy talking to the innovators in our industry who are creating new modes of publishing and opportunities for writers. Brooke Warner and Kamy Wicoff founded She Writes Press in 2012 to provide writers with new publishing opportunities. Kamy operated the online community, She Writes, which was created to connect and serve women writers, both established and aspiring, and Brooke came from independent publishing.

Brooke’s first job in publishing was with the renowned North Atlantic Books in Berkeley (founded by Richard Grossinger and Lindy Hough). Subsequently, she was Executive Editor at Seal Press, working there for eight years. Toward the end of her time there, she felt she was witnessing firsthand the contracting publishing environment, where as editor, she was frequently rejecting well-written books, simply because the authors she was working with did not have the kinds of “author platforms” that commercial publishers now virtually require.

Kamy and Brooke envisioned a new kind of publishing company that would enable authors to be invited to publish based on the merit of their writing alone. They wanted to establish a publishing business for women writers that would itself enable the kind of a platform that could launch – and grow – the writing careers of their client authors. In 2014, She Writes Press became part of SparkPoint Studio, LLC., whose CEO is Crystal Patriarche.

She Writes is now a solid publishing partner for authors who might otherwise struggle with self publishing. With a strong editorial effort, traditional book distribution (through Ingram Publisher Services) and an in-house marketing and publicity team (through Patriarche’s publicity company, BookSparks) available to SWP authors, She Writes Press has become successful in the emerging category of “hybrid” publishers.

In this interview, where Brooke explains how She Writes works and the problems it is solving for now more than a hundred writers, and talks about the current and future of trade book publishing.

In addition to being publisher of She Writes Press, Brooke is president of Warner Coaching Inc., and author of Green-light Your Book, What’s Your Book?, How to Sell Your Memoir, and the co-author of Breaking Ground on Your Memoir. She currently sits on the boards of the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Bay Area Book Festival, and the National Association of Memoir Writers. She blogs actively on Huffington Post Books and SheWrites.com. She lives and works in Berkeley, California.

Length alert – we had a good time talking so this interview runs just over 45 minutes.logo-swp

Kate Tempest: The Bricks that Built the Houses: A Novel

July 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Fiction, WritersCast

26073155 (1)9781620409015 – Bloomsbury USA – 416 pages – Hardcover – $26 – ebook versions available at lower prices, paperback scheduled for February 2017

I found out about Kate Tempest more or less accidentally, through an odd set of search results one day while fooling around on YouTube, and therefore I must thank the seemingly strange, but often wonderful algorithms of its search tools. What a discovery! After seeing and hearing Kate’s poetry performances, I immediately bought her books and was completely enthralled.

I don’t seem to have too many poetry friends who know about Kate’s work, and that is a shame. She is British, and young, and very modern in affect. But she is an old soul, with a deep and powerful intellect, and her voice is one that I find both compelling and mesmerizing. I think she is simply a great writer, and stands out for the power of the words she marshals as well as the intellection that informs those words.

If you have not heard or seen Kate Tempest, or heard of her work, I’d urge you to visit YouTube now, and spend some time with her work. You might want to start with the incredible poem “Progress” (which you can also read to yourself in her book Hold Your Own). The video of her performing this poem gives you just a taste of what her work is like. It’s a remarkable commentary on religion and meaning. Tempest has got a lot to say and says it powerfully and clearly, with an almost religious (or in this case anti-religious) fervor. It’s totally captivating to listen to her syncopated rapping poetry. She has got the fever.

Kate has expanded her narrative abilities, moving from hip hop poet to playwright and now to novelist, an amazing journey that not very many poets or performers have undertaken. Usually poets are best at short bursts of ideas, or word paintings, they are not often masters of narrative, and while there are certainly poets who have written novels, novelists who write poetry, and songwriters who tell great stories, it’s not am easy thing to move from these genres to the more expansive form a novel takes, and the concentration on detail and complexity of characters as well.

From what Kate told me when we talked, she conceived this story first for one of her rap albums, and then carried the novel around with her while she toured with her band, alchemically transforming the story from poetry to prose, somehow managing to find the time and emotional space to get it down whole whilst on the road (and then later rewrote and rewrote to get it done).

The book is told in flashback from a powerfully lyrical opening scene, and it takes the reader some time to get her bearings and then to figure out who the various major and minor characters are, how they are related, and how they interact. But as the story unfolds, we begin to understand the journey, and these characters become indelible and specific, telling a story that is compelling and intense – and morally ambiguous. This is a modern wrapper around an ancient story, impossible to put down as it moves forward with breathless energy and heart felt imagination.

I really enjoyed talking to Kate about this novel and her work as a writer and performer. We talked in the New York office of her publisher, Bloomsbury USA.

Kate Tempest was born in 1985. She grew up and still lives in South-East London. She started out as a rapper, and a poet, and began writing for theatre in 2012. Her work includes Balance, an album she made with her band Sound of Rum; Everything Speaks in its Own Way, which is a collection of poems published by her own imprint Zingaro; GlassHouse, a forum theatre play for Cardboard Citizens; and the plays Wasted and Hopelessly Devoted both written for Paines Plough theatre and published by Bloomsbury Methuen. Her epic narrative poem Brand New Ancients won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. Everybody Down, her debut solo album, came out on Big Dada Records in 2014, and is the direct precursor to her novel The Bricks that Built the Houses.  Her most recent collection of poems is Hold Your Own; it’s based on the myth of the blind prophet Tiresias (I recommend you find and read this book; the language is fantastic).

“As Tempest’s gorgeous streams of words flow out, they conjure a story so vivid it’s as if you had a state-of-the-art Blu-Ray player stuffed in your brain, projecting image after image that sears itself into your consciousness” – New York Times

From Brand New Ancients:F-KATE-TEMPEST-IMG_0786-793x700

In the old days,
the myths were the stories we used to explain ourselves

but how can we explain
the way we hate ourselves?

The things we’ve made ourselves into,
the way we break ourselves in two,
the way we overcomplicate ourselves?

But we are still mythical.

David Wilk interviews Jess Brallier

JessBrallier for DavidPublishing Talks began as a series of conversations with book industry professionals and others involved in media and technology about the future of publishing, books, and culture. As we continue to experience disruption and change in all media businesses, I’ve been talking with some of the people involved in our industry about how publishing might evolve as our culture is affected by technology and the larger context of civilization and economics.

I’ve now expanded the series to include conversations that go beyond the future of publishing. I’ve talked with editors and publishers who have been innovators and leaders in independent publishing in the past and into the present, and continue to explore the ebb and flow of writing, books, and publishing in all sorts of forms and formats, as change continues to be the one constant we can count on.

Jess Brallier is one of those interesting, experienced innovators in publishing with whom I enjoy talking about all sorts of book related subjects. He’s worked in adult trade publishing, but has also had significant success with children’s and YA books, has long been involved in digital technologies, and notably was instrumental in the creation of the wildly best selling Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney. And he is a prolific book writer himself, as well. His vast experience has provided him with a unique perspective about books and publishing, and he is just the kind of person who makes this interview series interesting and fun for me to do.

Here’s the more or less “official” biography Jess sent me: Jess M. Brallier currently serves the publishing industry as a media and revenue agnostic consultant to small, mid, and large publishing houses, and a developer of original IP, both print and animated. His career spans th51165675e publishing of books and digital storytelling from brick-and-mortar and the web, to virtual worlds and social media. He had his own children’s imprint, Planet Dexter (Penguin) and used the web to establish and launch newly $800M in original IP (Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Big Nate, Poptropica, Galactic Hot Dogs, etc.)

He also worked closely with, and was essential to causing bestsellers for, Norman Mailer, William Manchester, William Least Heat Moon, Herman Wouk, William Shirer, Bailey White, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and many others. Brallier is a frequent speaker at both digital and book industry conferences, has served on the faculty of university-based publishing programs, and is the author or co-author of over 30 adult and children’s books.

I hope you enjoy listening to Jess as much as I did.

And not too long at 41 minutes, in case you were wondering.eIavBAAAQBAJ

Chris Offutt: My Father, the Pornographer: A Memoir

June 6, 2016 by  
Filed under Non-Fiction, WritersCast

my-father-the-pornographer-9781501112461_lg9781501112461 – Atria Books – 272 pages – Hardcover – $26.00 – ebook versions available at lower prices

Chris Offutt’s father, Andrew Offutt, left behind an unusual legacy – a massive quantity of pornography he wrote over a long swatch of his life. Besides being at one time a respected insurance agent, and subsequently a successful but still minor science fiction writer, Andrew Offutt spent years writing pornography, and made himself the “king of twentieth-century smut.”

During the 1970s, after Grove Press and other publishers had helped break down the barriers to legal publishing of pornographic and erotic literature, the floodgates of erotic writing opened up to meet a formerly unreachable demand. Several specialized, but relatively small commercial publishers created a mini-industry to satisfy an emerging market for written pornography and erotica of all kinds. During the height of the popularity of these books, some writers were able to make reasonable livings by turning out massive quantities of what was essentially pornographic pulp fiction.

Andrew Offutt was one of these writers, but unlike so many other high volume writers,  he was singular in his commitment to good writing and real plot lines, among other features of traditional fiction. As one might imagine, Andrew Offutt was an unusual man, and a strange and awkward parent keeping secrets about his work and the toll it took on his psyche.

Chris Offutt therefore grew up in a highly unusual world. His mother was the typist for all his father’s books. The family lived in the Kentucky hills, where most kids grew up hunting and fishing, and learning the pleasures of traditional country woodcraft.

Andrew Offutt was more than a little eccentric, and was a fiery and unpredictable father. When he closed the door to his home office, he demanded silence and to be left alone to concentrate on his writing, terrifying and controlling his family. And Offutt took the entire family with him when he went off to science fiction conventions, where he was a sought after figure, playing the role of the exotic sci fi novelist. In the seventies, Chris’ parents were evidently active swingers at these conventions.

During this time, Andrew Offutt wrote an incredible number of books – in total, more than four hundred novels, including pirate porn, ghost porn, zombie porn, and secret agent porn.

In 2013, after his father died, Chris Offutt returned to help his mother move out of his childhood home. In order to make sense of his father and his own childhood, Chris took on the herculean task of reading and organizing his father’s manuscripts and the vast trove of memorabilia, journals, and letters that accompanied them. It was only through the lens of his father’s writing that he was finally able to bring some closure to his understanding of this difficult and sometimes brilliant man. And at the same time he was able to gain a better understanding of himself as a person, father and of course, his own life as a writer.

This book is a remarkable literary and personal effort of psychic and literary exploration, truly one of the best memoirs I have read. Perhaps because my own father was similarly a writer who made his living through his work with words, this book meant a lot to me.

It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with Chris Offutt about his courageous and beautifully written memoir, and his own creative work as a writer.

Chris Offutt was born in 1958 in Lexington, Kentucky and grew up in the small town of Haldeman in the same state. He went to Morehead State University, and then to the University of Iowa, where he earned an MFA from the famed Iowa Writers Workshop. His first short story collection was Kentucky Straight, published in 1992. Along with fiction and memoirs, Chris has also written comics and journalism for several magazines and newspapers. In recent years, he has written for television as well (Weeds and True Blood).

Chris has received awards from the Lannan Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He received a Whiting Award in Fiction and Nonfiction.

“Chris Offutt owns one of the finest, surest prose styles around, ready and able to convey the hardest truth without flinching. Now Offutt enters the darkest and most mysterious of places—the cave of a monstrous enigma named Andrew J. Offutt—armed with nothing but his own restless curiosity. Spoiler alert: He makes it out alive, walking into the daylight to bring us a deeper, funnier, more tender and more heartbroken truth—and his masterpiece.” —Michael Chabonchris offutt

I’m as impressed as Michael Chabon is with this fine book.

And Offutt knows how to give a great interview too.

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