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.
Listen to the new audio here. Or read on…
Last week marked 8 years for me at Jack Palms Crime! But you know what’s a real anniversary? May 5th, which I originally called Cinco de Harwood back in 2009, when Three Rivers Press released Jack Wakes Up for its second time in print. That was a big release for me; Three Rivers Press / Crown / Random House put my first novel in bookstores from coast to coast. What a thrill!
And now, eight years later, I’m ready to bring Jack Palms back in the same way that I originally brought him out to the world: as a serialized podcast novel. It’s hard for me to believe that so much has changed since I started podcasting back in 2006, and in all I’ve done, I still haven’t found a better way to reach people than by giving them my serializing audio episodes as MP3s on the web.
That fact amazes me.
We’ve all come so far with technology, publishing has moved miles, and still I’ve come full circle to reach out to my audience again in the same way I did over eleven years ago. Know what? It’s still the best thing I’ve done, hopefully this next step will be a new “best thing” for me.
What’s new? Well, now I’m using Patreon.com, a hybrid of Podiobooks and Kickstarter that enables me to build a consistent, sustainable crowdfunding model along with the RSS and direct distribution of my audio right to listeners.
So it’s a big thing, one I’ve seen other writers use so well that I’m moved to try my own hand at it. Want to know more?
Most recently, I did a Q&A all about it last week that you can listen to here.
And the new JACK PALMS adventure? I’m happy to tell you that I am more excited about this title than any other book I’ve done to date. This one is called The Maltese Jordans and it’s gonna be fun! You can hear more about The Maltese Jordans here. Then subscribe to get episodes as soon as they release for a small fee, and see me spinning out videos of what I’m all about. All right here: patreon.com/sethharwood.
I hope to see you there.
In this audio, I talk a bit at the open about what you’re getting, what’s coming up, and give a new pre-release pitch for THE MALTESE JORDANS.
Thanks to Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff for the quickie intro at the open. It’s great to hear from an old friend in the game. I’ll have more from him coming up soon for you. What a voice on that guy!
Included content in this episode:
- Short history of my publishing career.
- Why I’m using Patreon now.
- Updates on what’s to come in the near future.
- Pitch content and new info about THE MALTESE JORDANS
- I answer some cool listener questions
- Pre-release reading of the first chapter of the book.
Enjoy! Want to go ahead and get in on a Patreon subscription for upcoming work? Go here.
You can also see links in the video here of my process in Scrivener, a tour of the Patreon page, all the funny faces, my sneakers, and more.
Full video on YouTube: https://youtu.be/kVB8_SnDS4M
I’m going forward with the online live session tomorrow night to answer questions, talk about why I’m doing Patreon, what this means, and get all the necessary details for you on THE MALTESE JORDANS.
Mainly, I want to get in touch and say hey.
If you’d like to join, please use the following link and come out tomorrow, Wednesday, April 26th starting at 8:30 Eastern. We’ll wrap up around 9:00. If you’re on the Pacific Side of things, that’s 5:30 to 6:00. 🙂
Here’s how to attend:
Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android: https://zoom.us/j/190665239
You’ll have to download some Zoom software that you may not already have going, but if you don’t want to do that, you can use phone lines below, or use the following link to find the live action via Kickstarter:
You want JACK PALMS (Mr. All Caps)? You GOT JACK PALMS!
The man himself is returning to your earbuds in just 12 days on Cinco de Harwood – May 5th, 2017. That’s exactly eight years after Jack Wakes Up hit stores nationwide in its re-publication by Three Rivers Press (Random House). You found it in Borders, snapped pics of it on shelves of Barnes & Noble and all the indies we could find, and many of you bought it on Amazon! Thank you for making that dream a reality.
Now five books and several publishers later, I’m coming back to the serialized audiobook format that was so much fun to create for you. You ready to join me again?
Cinco De Harwood, May 5th, 2017, will be the drop date for
THE MALTESE JORDANS
Where can you find it? Well, some of it will be here, and ALL of it will be here:
Find your way to the new Patreon page, pick a reward level, and subscribe. I’ll be right there to thank you.
This week you get some FREE Jack Palms for a Throwback Thursday (a new, regular occurrence over at my Patreon page), updates from me, new talk, intros and outros, and the PROOF that I’m getting back to the mic, finally giving you more of what you want to hear!
New Jack Palms content will be on the way soon, along with “The Sinaloa Affair.”
Please help fund the cause by going to Patreon and becoming one of my lovelies. Thanks!