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Thank you, Jaclyn Bauer of Centered on Books, for your pre-publcation review of my story collection,
This Far Isn't Far Enough
. . . Sandro? Sandro, thickset and old? She’d never imagined him aging. She ducked back—he couldn’t have seen her—and reached for her shotgun. . .
I am thrilled that my story "Nature Rules" appears in the fall 2017 issue of Shenandoah, a prestigious literary journal that began publishing in 1949.
Last night we Chicago authors published by Fomite had a fun evening with Donna Bister, manager of Fomite. Great conversation on topics ranging from singing, food, childhood stories, and the state of publishing.
Left to right: Maggie Kast, author of the novel A Free, Unsullied Land, Donna Bister, Fomite manager, Jan English Leary, author of the novel Thicker Than Blood, and the forthcoming story collection Skating on the Vertical, and me, Lynn Sloan, author of Principles of Navigation and the story collection This Far Isn't Far Enough, coming out February 20, 2018.
At Northwestern University Summer Writing Conference 2017, Marylee MacDonald, author of Montpelier Tomorrow, a novel, published by ATTM Press and Bonds of Love & Blood, a story collection, published by Summertime Publications, and I, author of Principles of Navigation, a novel, published by Fomite, spoke about the ways the new publishing landscape created by small presses and how this new landscape has built new and supportive communities for writers. The large audience asked great questions and offered insightful comments.
Northwestern University Summer Writing Conference: WRITING CHICAGO, August 17-19, features an exciting program of workshops, panels, and a keynote speech by Stuart Dybek. I'm delighted to lead a workshop on "Finding the Right Words, and to discuss "Indie Presses: Creating New Communities" with author Marylee MacDonald.
Writing the Next Chapter, a program in which Patricia Skalka, Joyce Zeiss, and I talk about making the transition to second careers as novelist was warmly received at the March meeting of the Society of Midland Authors. During the discussion that followed, a new writer asked about the limits of the old adage “write about what you know.” “Write about what you want to know,” I suggested. Our curiosity, our urge to understand drives us as writers.
Tom Hayden, political activist, one of the Chicago Seven, said this sometime in the seventies. Back then I thought this was so obviously true that it was trivial. Yet these words stayed with me and have taken on relevance as I’ve gotten older, echoing when I’ve been weak and injured and when I’ve been strong. Today October 24, 2016, Tom Hayden died. Wanting to know when and where he made this silly and profound observation, I Googled these words, and discovered that Christopher Hitchens is credited with this line, in his last book, Mortality, published in 2012. While Hitchens may have written those words, I’ll salute Tom Hayden for expressing this thought.
Lynn Sloan: The Three Lives of Jonathan Force (Fomite Press, February 2016) is a big novel, one that tells thestory of one man’s life from beginning to end, a project that took you decades to complete. Over the years, you’ve published portions as single short stories and a volume of linked stories. You considered publishing Jonathan’s story in three separate novels, finally settling on one novel that includes three books. Can you recall the very first moment you decided to embark on this vast project that has taken so many turns?
Richard Hawley: I’m not sure I can identify an actual trigger moment that started me on this project. But about twenty years into my work teaching and coaching and counseling in a boys’ school, contending with all that unfurling, I knew I wanted to capture the essence of it. My first impulse was to celebrate all that energy and
impulsiveness and uncool striving, but at the same time something like grief was at work: grief that circumstances, including the requirements of schooling, were chafing the boy-ness out of the boys. This realization, part wonder, part guilt, carried me back to my own boyhood and schooling — and, literally everything came back. So I guess the genesis of this book is the moment I realized I no longer wanted to shape or improve the boys, but instead to be an alert, appreciative witness to what was most alive in them.
Lynn Sloan: When did the idea to be an “alert, appreciative witness” to boys’ “unfurling” — great word — expand to include the entire arc of a man’s life?
Richard Hawley: I have been immersed in boyhood — both in the boyhood exuberantly close at hand in my work and in the reconsideration of my own — throughout the course of my adult life. I followed what might be called the maturation of many of the boys I knew into what seemed to me impostures: credible approximations of what the civic order might expect of a business executive or an attorney, of a club-able suburbanite, of a family man. These poses were assumed with what seemed like terrific psychic effort. There was an unease about these outwardly successful men, nothing that felt to me like happiness. Observing this was of course an invitation to examine my own adaptations and compromises, which was revelatory. It helped that beginning in middle life I was reading a lot of Jungian writing. One writer, Robert Johnson, is especially good on the deep nature of masculinity and femininity. One of his books, Transformations, proposes that there are three stages of a fully realized man’s life. In the first the boy — every boy — is a kind of spirited fool, like the eponymous Parsifal of legend or Don Quixote. Such boys can inspire and energize others but they are not quite in the real world. Boys who grow past this condition, young men who become practically shrewd and “real,” tend to make their way intellectually and materially, but in forsaking their boyhood illusions, they lose heart. They become jaded and world-weary, like Hamlet. But Hamlets can transcend this condition, Johnson maintains, if they have the courage to put aside their certainties and follow insistent urges, even dark ones, to a fuller realization of who they are and their place in the world, like Goethe’s Faust. I am an old man now, and this trajectory makes sense to me. I wanted to tell such a story in The Three Lives of Jonathan Force. And while I believe all of us live something like discrete, successive lives, there is in my case, and in Jonathan’s, the unifying force of boyhood, burning like a steady fuse for as long as we live.
A few months ago I visited the Chequamegon Book and Coffee Company in Washburn, Wisconsin. Finding Louise Erdrich’s Books & Islands in Ojibwe Country seemed like serendipity, since I was on my way to Madeline Island, or Mooningwanekaaning, in the Ojibwe language. In this book Erdrich ponders the question of why she loves books. She writes:
Having only taken a few inept family photos and one pretty bad class in photojournalism at Northwestern University before I applied for admission into the graduate program in photography at the Institute of Design at IIT, I was lucky to get in. At the time I had no idea that the program, founded by Moholy-Nagy of the Bauhaus, was legendary. Nor had I any idea that it was tremendously influential in how serious photograph had and would evolved in the second half of the twentieth century. Ignorant as I was, my passion for photography fit happily into the intense, experimental practice that the program demanded.
In 2002, the Art Institute of Chicago put together an exhibition titled Taken By Design, Photographs from the Institute of Design, 1937—2001, a visual history with essays. I was included in that show. A Lasting Vision: Photographs from the Institute of Design 1970—2001, picks up where Taken By Design left off. In 2001 the graduate program in photography was shut down. I’m looking forward to seeing the work of those with whom I was trained as a thinker and a photographer.
The exhibition A Lasting Vision opens on Friday, July 31 at Crown Hall, 3360 South State Street, Chicago, IL and will run for several weeks. A catalogue will be available.