Monday, December 5, 2011

An Experiment?

It's been a good autumn.

I'm in the process of wrapping up another semester of teaching at Columbia College Chicago, finishing up some freelance writing assignments, and working on some new material for a considered Kindle publication, a possible ebook adventure, if you will. The stories will be a mixture of fiction and creative nonfiction. An editor is working through the stories and I'm cleaning up some of the material, some of it needs more cleaning than others.

The working title is After Opium, the title of one of the pieces. The theme is about all those many things that we feel we need, are addicted to, and believe we can't live without - when in reality, we can live without most of it. It's just a matter of deciding to carry on, move on, change, accept heartache, loss or a new beginning.

This venture into e-publishing is really an academic experiment. I want to see what self-publishing through the ebook experience is really like. I hope to have something available sometime in the early part of 2012. Good way to start the New Year, huh? We'll see.

Here are a few of the pieces - at least early versions of them - that will likely be included in the e-collection. Each has been published, but reworked, newer versions - some only slightly changed - will likely make it into After Opium (the collection).

Hope you enjoy.

Epiphany Magazine - "The Smell of Dead Soldiers"

Character-i - "After Opium"

Friday, September 9, 2011

This Much is True

After being immersed in writing while at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando this summer, it's been tough getting back into the swing of things - the writing swing - here in the Chicago area. Not that I don't want to write - I certainly do and have, to some extent - but the routine is off. And that makes be wonder about how writers - of all kinds - get themselves back in the groove after a change in their usual or planned writing routine?

It's not that easy, is it?

Writing is work, and it takes time and thought, introspection and consideration, and many times what is needed it a difficult commodity to cultivate - quiet. Those who don't write sometimes don't get this. Even our loved ones don't always understand the process. How could they if they don't also write?

So, I'm wondering today - what do you do? What do you do to get your writing swagger back after a break, a respite? How do you jump start the process? Or do you? Maybe you slog back into it like I'm currently doing. Or maybe you are atypical and simply never fall off the writing track? You lucky devil, you.

I have one thing that may help. This coming Tuesday night in Chicago I'll be reading at the This Much is True event at the Hopleaf Bar, 5148 North Clark. TMIT is a marvelous addition to the storytelling circuit in Chicago and really is a kick to experience. Come on out and help me get my writing juices flowing again! It might also electrify your writing, too.


Monday, August 15, 2011

Scribbler's Retreat - A Great Experience

Thanks to all who turned out for the Scribbler's Retreat and Conference at the Sea Island Lodge on St. Simons, Georgia. What a great group and a well-run writing conference!

I was fortunate enough to be asked to give the keynote address Saturday evening, and was thrilled by the response and enthusiasm of this group of writers. A speaker certainly can thrive off of that! And great questions, by the way.

Scribbler's does a number of conference at year, and it is truly a good experience for all levels of writers. And these people are FUN! I know this sounds a bit like a commercial - but honestly - it is one of the better writing conference experiences.

Back from JK House and trying to find a new pattern for writing here in the Chicago area again. A road trip of 1285 miles from Orlando through Georgia and South Carolina and Asheville, North Carolina (stunning beauty) and the Smokey Mountains and Tennessee and Ohio and Indiana and Illinois. It is a little tricky getting the groove going again, but I've got some ideas and some I go...


Friday, August 12, 2011


I sat in Jack's room this morning, my last minutes in the Kerouac House.

There on the bed, and then at the desk, I thought about my 2-and-a-half months here. Not about every minute, every breakthrough in writing, or friend made, or visits to the Essay Club, or my readings at Infusion or inside this house, or the workshop with MadAboutWords, or my final weeks of writing inspired by the Downtown Credo coffee shop, or my book manuscript. Instead, I thought about the energy in that room, how I wanted to bottle it, to wrap it up in a sealed plastic bag and put it on ice to thaw whenever I need it.

I left behind my Zen bracelet I once wore, wrapping it around the small Buddha shrine in Jack's room. I wanted to leave something behind, more than just the memory of a writer who once worked here.

My last week was a good one despite the AC dying at the house on the next to last day. But somehow it was fitting. When Jack lived here, there was no air conditioning, so he wrote at night when it was cool, his keys echoing out the open window and bouncing off the trees and homes on this usually quiet street. Neighbors said they could hear the furious typing until dawn.

To all those who supported me - thank you. To all the writers before me - thank you. To the writer's to come - savor the work, and breath every bit of the omnipresent energy. I promise I left a little behind.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Now That Was Cool

Sometimes nights are pleasant; sometimes nights are memorable. Sometimes - they are undeniably seared into the landscape of your future.

That's what the night was at the Jack Kerouac House - a searing, unforgettable launching.

It was my goodbye reading at the JK House Saturday night. About twenty-five people on hand. Wine, cheese, cut apples, green grapes, sweets made of caramel. And a supportive, encouraging, responsive crowd.

I read a few short pieces I had written here, or edited here, and then a chapter from my new book-length manuscript. I tried to hit a lot of notes, strike some relevance. I pray I accomplished that. Think I did.

But, about this "landscape of the your future" of which I speak.

Performing at readings is not writing. It is just that, performing. There's a rhythm you have to recognize, a pulse you have to take, so that you offer what you think you must and allow it to be received through the windows of what your audience wants. It's tough work. I don't always get it right. Even when I do, I'm doubtful that it is as good as it can be. But what I am sure of from the reading the JK House Saturday, is that the stories told and the questions asked and the hearts and souls touched (including mine) were all very real. And with that, I go forward. I move ahead, take what the night gave me, and write more, create more, find new themes, discover more inquiries, and deliver more stories. Writers always need places, good places from which to jump. Saturday night I leapt from the steps of the Jack Kerouac House with wings.

Thanks to all.

I will soon relinquish the chair that sits at the desk in the small room where Jack wrote The Dharma Bums to the next writer, the next lucky soul who will also find a nuturting venue, a supportive cast, and a place from which to jump.


Friday, August 5, 2011

One More Week

The countdown has begun.

I have one more week left - to the day - here at the JK House. And as all goodbyes go, there's a some sadness. Made new friends here, and I've come to really love this area. (Yeah, it's been hot, but you somehow get used to it.)

Of course, I've completed a good deal of work here, or at least as completed as writing can be. I forget who it was, but an author once said something like this: a writer is never done with a story, he only abandons it. I know exactly what he meant.

Saturday night is my final reading at the Kerouac House, and I'm looking forward to the chance to share pieces of the book manuscript and some short fiction I written here, all inspired - to some extent - by the area, the house, the local people, the shops.

Next weekend, I head for Sea Island, Georgia for a conference - The Scribbler's Retreat. I've been honored to talk about radio narrative, creative nonfiction, and interviewing as the conference's keynote speaker. Never been to Sea Island, and friends tell me it is storybook beautiful.

I can't say I'm looking forward to the 1200 mile drive back to Chicago, but how fitting, right? It prolongs the Kerouac connection when one has to get behind the wheel and drive and drive.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

And Now, a Bit of Fiction

Most my writing here at the JK House has been creative nonfiction, working on a book manuscript for a road trip story.

But, in the last week or so I've taken a break, and been working on some short fiction. I try to write something every morning at around the 600-1000 word length. I love short fiction. The shorter the better sometimes. I think of Cat in the Rain, Hemingway's great short story measuring out at just about 1000 words. (Not to say I'm Ernest, but I am earnest. Sorry, that is a really bad pun.)

So with all this's a taste of some short fiction....

Barre Work
By David W. Berner

She was a ballerina. Actually, she was a budding ballerina. That’s what they call the young ones who visualize starring in Giselle or Swan Lake, but whose talent is not yet refined, their technique not yet precise. Still, even at the age of 15, she walked with her feet already severely pointing outward. Her turnout, as it’s called, was well beyond her young life. She dreamed of living in New York City. I dreamed of being her lover.

She attended ballet classes twice a week on Wednesday afternoons after school and again on Saturday mornings. She always arrived early to do extra barre work. Once, I came along and watched. She progressed through a series of beautifully graceful movements: the demi plie, the full plie, the grande battement front. Her body squatting nearly to the floor, her back straight, and the lights in the room casting delicate shadows on her sinewy tendons and muscles. With each move, she sculpted herself into a new work of art.

“Ballet is a dance executed by the human soul,” Alexander Pushkin, the Russian poet, was believed to have said. I was a freshman in high school; I didn’t know anything at all about Pushkin. But if I had heard someone quote the poet as I saw her move through the elegant routine, I would have agreed. I witnessed her soul at work that day. Something I believed I had glimpsed in the moments we spent alone. The dance was different, but fueled by the same spirit. Some might say I was too young, too naive to recognize this, but I know what I saw.

The lesson focused primarily on perfection of the brise, a sharp movement that throws the working leg into the air while pushing off from the supporting leg. The dancer lands on crossed feet, knees bent. Standing in 5th position, she briskly jumped, beating one leg against the other in midair. Even in its quickness, the movement remained elegant, like that of a jaguar – powerful and graceful. To reveal her beauty the cat needs to do nothing more than move its body, to allow the working muscles to expose its magnificence. She needed no partner. Like the cat, she was a singular being focused solely on where her body was, would be, and how she would get it there. She was keenly aware of herself, yet moved only by instinct, as if in a dream. Her eyes gave away nothing. No one could breakthrough the intensity, the dancer’s wall. She would not let them.

It was no different with us. I wanted to get closer to her somehow, climb over the wall, but she would only let me scale it enough to see through the tiny cracks. Her parents had insisted she see other people, they told her she was too young to be so serious with one boy. “I’m don’t know what to do,” she said, “I have to listen to my parents, but I can’t imagine what things will be like.”

To dance is to sacrifice. The body is contorted into what the art needs. To be who she became required all of her. It is also true of love. We give up pieces of ourselves, transform to meet the requests of our lovers, shape our souls into what is desired. To be in love, to experience it, requires all we have.

After her lesson, after the barre work and the final brise, I told her I wouldn’t be coming to any more of her ballet lessons. She kissed me. “Promise you’ll get to New York to see me one day,” she said. “Promise me you won’t forget.”


And so it goes...


Friday, July 29, 2011

I Have Waited Too Long to Credo

It was just a couple weeks ago here in Orlando at the Jack Kerouac House that I first entered Credo, the College Park coffee house. I'm sorry I waited so long.

Credo is a donations only coffeehouse with a funky and comfortable interior, and a "creed" to go along with it. To say it succinctly, Credo rejects apathy. The idea behind the this community shop is to give back to its neighbors, offering help to the local Boys and Girls Club, a space for songwriters and doucmentarians, artists and writers, people who want to live life to its fullest in a meaningful, purposeful way. And yes, there are no prices on the coffee, no prices of the coffee cakes. You pay what you think you should give.

Do not let this imply that the coffee is sub par. Credo is leading an initiative to pay the coffee growers in the La Perla region of Guatemala a living wage. The coffee is shade grown on rugged and remote hillsides. This was an area devastated by decades of civil war, but now produces what Credo calls "a treasure" - Cafe de la Esperanza. The hand-cultivated coffee is sun dried at 4,000 feet above sea level. It's a sweet, citric java. For me, it's best in a French press. But you can get it in as many ways as you can imagine at Credo.

I don't wish to create a blog that resembles an advertisement. It is not. But on Friday afternoon, I spent nearly six hours at Credo, writing, filling up my coffee mug, and savoring the surroundings the people. I simply want people to know how great this place is.

Like so much here, I will miss Credo. I will miss its unassuming purpose and its quietly welcoming space. With just two weeks left in my residency, Credo cretainly will be a part of many of my remaining hours.


Some Writers I've Been Considering

These are not new names to many, but I've either been discovering or re-discovering their work while here at the Jack Kerouac House. And, I thought they were all worth sharing.

Authors (new and old) I've been paying attention to...

Denis Johnson
Simon Van Booy
ZZ Packer
Dinty Moore
Phillip Lopate
T.C. Boyle


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Soft Exposure

Great night at Infusion Tea for the latest edition of Soft Exposure!

I was honored to be part of a night that included friends and new friends, and readings from some talented writers. Although I read from my memoir, Accidental Lessons, and a bit from my new manuscript - the book I'm working on while the Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project, it was clear that poetry ruled the night. Some wonderful pieces on the themes of "waiting" and Jazz and monsters.

Tonight - I head out with the Essay Club. We've all read a recent NY Times piece by Jonathan Franzen about the links between technology, mobile device envy, and love. It should be a discussion of high volume. It always is

Two weeks remain for me at the JK House. I've already told the board members I'm planning an act of civil disobedience and chaining myself to the house's front porch. They'll have to call the cops.

In the meantime, I continue to redraft a manuscript and to write new material, hoping to shape some short fiction. But while I work, I can't help consider that these are my last hours here and there are levels of melancholy that envelope this temporary home and me. I've always believed there is some goodness in sadness. This is one of those times.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Cigars Galore

There's a photo here at the Jack Kerouac House of Jack smoking a small cigar while going through his notebooks. In another photo, there's a box of Dutch Masters cigars in the background. They're tucked in a cubby hole near his writing desk.


While at Jack's house...

Can't smoke in the JK home, but just minutes from the house is a great cigar shop - Corona Cigars. Fabulous. So, a one Cohiba and a McCallan single malt later - -

My younger son is visiting now too, and he smoked a small maduro.

Working on drafts of manuscript and also touching up some short pieces I've been tinkering with...hoping to publish them in a Kindle edition. More later.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Writers Getting a Little Help from Jack

Ten writers came to the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando on Saturday to capture a little bit of the energy that emanates from this place. I hope they left with a bundle of it.

Along with the help of Mad-about-Words, I held a three-hour workshop at the JK House - mostly about how to organize your writing, your story plan, and crafting that crucial opening paragraph.

Writers of all skills, types, and sensitivities brought talent and dreams into the house, each dedicated to doing something special with their work. All offered great questions, solid insight, and some engaging opening paragraphs to the full stories yet to be told. From the tale of a middle-of-the-night phone call from a nearly forgotten lover, to an awkward - if not strange - encounter in a transgender bar, to a young woman's obsession with money and the big check she would be getting from her uncle whose mysterious death still haunted her - each writer dug deep to find a new way to begin a story, and sharing those stories was invaluable.

The JK House is a fabulous place to hold this kind of workshop - intimate, cozy, and full of creative force. But what makes it all work? The people. The writers who come to these workshops feed this house, nurturing it out of its slumber and routine. The JK House is always special even when it sits alone and quiet - but the beating hearts and the stories inside those hearts and souls are the fuel that keeps the house's artistic fires burning.

Best to all the writers here today - and joy in writing.

David B

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On the Road - The Movie

Some of you may already know that the On the Road movie is close to release. It's a Francis Ford Coppola-backed production.

The Huffington Post published a wonderful article about the "authenticity" behind the making of the movie.

Kerouac followers - you will LOVE THIS STORY!

"All that raw land..."

One Month and NOT Counting

I've been at the Kerouac House for over a month now, and have just about a month left - a little more than halfway.

Its bittersweet.

This is a marvelous place to work: great atmosphere, historical and spiritual in a way. The neighborhood is wonderful, and the friends I've made have been supportive and genuinely interested in my work.

In the next couple of weeks - plenty to do. This Saturday Mad-about-Words is holding a workshop for me here at the Kerouac House for writers interested in pursuing more ways to enlighten their work. I see that as a big responsibility and I take it seriously. I look forward to it. The house will be a wonderful place to hold the workshop, as it's homey and full of "writer energy."

Then later this month, I'll be at Infusion Tea for a reading with Soft Exposure. I was at the June reading where we listened to some wonderful local poets.

Then, in August I'll hold my final reading at the house during a farewell party here. That will will include a lot of "sweet" along with the aforementioned "bitter." (I've already told the Jack Kerouac Project: "I'm not leaving!)

Then it's off to Sea Island, Georgia for the Scribbler's Writer's Conference where I'll be the keynote speaker Saturday, August 13th.

Meantime - the work on the manuscript continues: lots of redrafting, chapter changes, and touch-ups, and - as Hemingway said - the search for that "one true sentence." But I see it coming together and I'm grateful to the JK Project for giving me the time and this remarkable place to make that happen.

Then comes the doubt. Writer's have doubt, don't you know? Who knew? But I'm ready for that, and the writer therapy I'll need when that thick manuscript sits on my desk -- waiting.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

And One More Kerouac Hunter

That's what they call them around here - Kerouac Hunters. These are the people who stop by the Jack Kerouac House here in Orlando unannounced and excited they have found the place where their favorite writer, their literary and cultural hero lived and wrote. The Hunters arrive regularly and today - there was yet another knock at my door.

A gentlemen from Alabama, traveling with his wife, came up the porch steps in mid-afternoon and stopped to look around. I could hear him talking to his wife.

"This is the place. There's a sign on the door. Wow. This is it."

He had heard about the house and its history - the apartment in the back, the small room - 10-x-10 - where Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums, where he entertained a Time Magazine photographer after On the Road made him famous, where Jack was living meagerly, nearly broke, writing at night when it was coolest. The neighbors could hear his typing until the dawn.

I answered the door.

"Hello," he said. "Is this the place?"

Obviously I knew exactly what he was asking, and I knew he already knew the answer.

"Yes it is," I said. "This is the place."

"Wow. And you? Are the you writer living here now?"

We talked for 15 minutes about the house and Kerouac, and although I was working and didn't offer to allow him inside, I did encourage him to look around the back of the house near the apartment entrance.

"So this is where he laid down on the ground to try to sweat out the flu?"

Kerouac came back from a road trip to Mexico and was ill. He slept on the ground in the Florida heat, hoping to rid his body of the sickness.

"And those steps there," I said, gesturing with my hand, "that's where he sat with a stack of oranges and his cat in his lap. There's a famous photo of that moment."

"Right there?" he said, pointing.

"Right there," I replied.

He smiled, shook his head imagining Kerouac life here, and in awe of where he was standing.

There are few places in the world where American literary ghosts remain: Hemingway's homes in Key West and in Cuba, and the Steinbeck House in California. But here in Orlando - there is something more. The Kerouac House is NOT a museum, not a pristine place where you can't touch the history. No. Here you can live with the ghost, experience the lingering muse, and let it all sink into your soul.

"Are you feeling a little of Jack?" he asked.

"Every single day," I said, "every single day."


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Distractions - But Not Quite.

If you think the Orlando area is all about Mickey and believe commercialism and "tacky-ism" is everywhere, think - not only again, but again and again and again.

I've been here at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando nearly a month now, and haven't ventured out much to explore the area, sticking to the writing work at hand and some of the wonderful spots right here in College Park - Infusion Teas, Credo, and Christo's. But today I spent nearly the entire day checking out some go-to suggestions from the new friends I've made here.

Earlier this past week, I was invited to join the Essay Club meeting in the heart of the downtown. It works like this: members choose an essay - old, new, avant-garde, traditional, hard-hitting, lighthearted - read it ahead of time, then grab a bite to eat, a couple of beers or glasses of wine, and have at it, discussing the essay and morphing into anywhere it takes them. First of all - what a great idea! And second - what great people! Delightful group with interesting insight and considerations not only for the writing but for the venue. We went to a design-your-own burger spot in the trendy Magnolia and Pine area. The burger was tremendous, but the beer - Widmer - was terrific. First time tasting the citrus infused brew. It is a beauty for a hot summer night. But also, this group had FANTASTIC IDEAS for a Orlando transplant, and today I checked out some of those suggestions, heading for breakfast at the Briarpatch in Winter Park and a peek at the boat tour there so many have talked about, a walk and a stop near a great cafe in Hanover Park, a bike ride around Lake Eola, a drive to a hidden Cuban deli, and a walk through the downtown.

But in between all this - some writing. Yep, got to keep at it. The first draft is nearly complete, and soon it will be time to tear it all apart and fine-tune over and over. Some don't like the re-drafting process, but I enjoy it. It's like shining silver, the more you brush it - the more it shines, and watching it emerge from any early tarnishes is exactly what a writer hopes to see

However, when the process gets tedious - I now have a list of great places to escape to and recharge the battery.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Literary Golf

Just a thought on this U.S. Open Sunday. What would some of the literary geniuses be like as golfers?

There have been rabid golfers in the literary world. John Updike was the biggest in the modern world. He loved the game, even wrote about it. One of his best short stories "Farrell's Caddie" is a gem for golfers and non-golfers.

But what I'm thinking about today while watching Rory McIlroy destroy the field at Congressional Country Club from the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, is what kind of golfer would Jack have been?

First - he was athletic. He won a football scholarship to Columbia University and was a star player in high school. He also played baseball. You would think he would be a natural. But of course, golf isn't always that kind. What Jack may have had going for him would have been his Buddha-like thinking, his Zen demeanor and sensitivities. Golf is a mind game, and a spiritual one in many ways. Jack, no doubt, was a spiritual guy, despite his demons. Combine that with his athletic ability, well, he may have been a solid golfer. Jack did most of his writing at night, sometimes all night long, probably lending itself to liking those early morning, dew sweeper tee times.

All this said, Jack probably would have rather spent his four golf hours writing than hitting a ball around beautiful settings. But I do think Jack would have had an appreciation for the game, a clear sensitivity for what is needed to be good at it and accept its difficulties. Who knows, he may have even written a haiku about the experience.

Hemingway had his hunting and fishing, John Irving had his wrestling, and Baker his golf. If I had to pick one sport Jack might have taken up, my guess would be the game that requires 18 holes to finish and a certain poetry to master. It just seems fitting.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Letters, Letters...We've Got Letters.

The library at the Jack Kerouac House is a beaut! There are works by Jack, including poetry. plus biographies, studies of his literary style, and books of letters.

In one volume are many of the letters he penned while at this house in Orlando: letters to editors, friends, fellow writers like Ginsberg and Snyder, and family. Letters laced with anger, some with sweetness, some with regret, some with contempt for publishers, editors, reviewers and critics. The volumes of letters may be the most telling of the inner literary genius and, maybe more so, the inner man.

Kerouac was complex, to say the least; a man who knew his faults but believed in his work. A sweet son when he wished, a great friend when he cared to be, and even a good husband - at times.

Letters - it's a shame we don't write them like we used to. A volume of email exchanges from a writer like Kerouac just wouldn't be the same.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Okay, NOW it's Summer.

I was told when I arrived at the Kerouac House this the summer that the heat hadn't yet made its way to Central Florida. Today, it arrived. It's closing in on 100 degrees in the city of Orlando. Yes, the Kerouac House, as old as it is, has air conditioning. Thanks for asking. And now I'm sitting inside a very cool, artsy tea shop - Infusion Tea - drinking iced Jubilee tea sweetened with agave. I'm guessing maybe 50 kinds of teas sit in jars along the back wall of Infusion, and on the north side of the building is a co-op art shop. I'll be back.

I'm doing what I'm supposed to do down here - write, write, write. I spend at least 5-6 hours each day writing or editing. Most days have gone pretty well, churning it out. But yesterday I hit some muddy roads, I can usually get out a solid 500-1000 words a day that I feel are at least first-draft strong, but Sunday I struggled with one potential chapter, rewriting it eight times. Now, redrafting is not unusual, but this was like walking through grainy, slippery sand on a hot Florida beach - one heavy foot after another heavy foot, trudging along trying not to get burned. But oddly, I loved it. Call me crazy.

I broke away this past Saturday morning to get in a round of golf and I met some wonderful guys. One of them teamed up with me to challenge the other in an 18-hole match. We won. The others bought the beer, and we told stories of our families, our travels, our golf games. That's when one from the losing duo - a self-described "West Virginia hillbilly" - asked if I had a name yet for my book-in-progress. He wanted to know what it was so he wouldn't "screw up and buy it!"

It was all in fun, but he was apparently done handing over any more winnings to me.

And so it goes from hot Orlando!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Feeling like...Home?

I've been at Jack Kerouac's House at the JK Project in Orlando for just over a week now, and I wonder - could it feel like home already?

A friend reminded me the other night on the phone how when you have few errands to run (if any), no office to go to (just Jack's room in the back of the house), and don't have to get in your car to live your daily life (only once so far to buy a printer cartridge), then finding a great place to spend your days, maybe ANY place, can feel pretty good. That may be true, but I do like the College Park neighborhood in Orlando. It reminds me of some of the wonderful neighborhoods in Chicago where walking is the usual mode of transportation and there are great coffee shops, an old-school diner, a hardware store, places of worship, and a solid grocery store all within a short bike ride or walk.

And the people have been friendly, like most, really. It's not just a Orlando trait, is it? But I did meet a sweet lady today. Helen is my neighbor just across from Jack's house. I'll give her first name only for her privacy. She lives there with her sweet dog, Sarah. She, the dog, appears to have some Basset Hound in her, but I'm not sure. Sarah has those stubby legs, those big ears, and that bulky body. Scratch her tummy and she moans.

College Park and Jack's neighborhood does not have a lock on hospitality or friendliness, but what it does have is a willingness to embrace a stranger, a writer-type that lives alone in a tiny house where no one knows what's really going on in there. They respect my space, my need for some solitude, but still - like all the rest of us - want to connect.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Haiku Experiment

Kerouac was a master at the Western haiku. Not the one limited by the 5-7-5 syllables of the Japanese haiku, but the more free-form version. He was adamant however about not using what he called "literary trickery" like metaphor, but in my attempts I'm not so sure I was able to stick to that form. He also worked to get a sense of season in the haiku, a tradition. I gave that a shot also, trying to be subtle. He was also inconsistent about using punctuation; sometimes he did, sometimes he didn't.

So, I gave it a shot during breaks in manuscript writing.

Here's one of my favorites from Jack:

Crossing the football field,
coming home from work,
The lonely businessman

And another:

The summer chair
rocking by itself
In the blizzard

And a couple of my own attempts:

Scurrying lizards on the porch
quick to safety shade
My writing waits

And another:

Bike to cup of coffee
a path in the sun
To mediate

And so it goes from Jack's place...


Monday, June 6, 2011

The Lizard King

Of course, that's the Door's Jim Morrison, I know. But it could be Jack Kerouac, too. The front porch of Jack's house is a lizard haven. Little grecko-type reptiles scatter when I open the door. Probably about a hand's length long. Some of them bellow in the throat like a bull frog. Quite impressive.

Good day of writing today. Couple chapters shaped. And got word on a workshop I'll be collaborating on with Mad about Words, a great friend of the Kerouac House and a fine group of writers pulling together workshops for those who want to tell their stories. It will be sometime in July and if you're in the Orlando area, worth checking on. More when things are confirmed.

Visitors are coming! Visitors are coming! A few people planning to come down to say hello over the next months. My wonderful girlfriend will be down over the Fourth, my son Graham later that month for a couple days, and my dear friend, Brad from Denver will stop by for a few days in early August. My older son, Casey, probably will not be able to make it. He's a busy creative guy as it is, and has a FULL summer. Go get 'em, young man.

Oh yes, and to answer the question I am most asked: Is it hot down here? Yep, it is. But it's not unbearable. It's welcome. Remember, home for me is Chicago!

Out on the bike for a bit, a cup of coffee, and many emails to return. Then - back to Jack's room for the tapping of the keys!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Jazz, Kerouac, and a Summer Night in Orlando

What does one say about a magnificent night? You know the kind: the one that lingers; the one that won't let you sleep when it over. That's this night in Orlando.

I sit on the porch at the Kerouac house with a liquor-tinged cup of coffee considering the gift I have been given: the chance to write and perform here. It's very early Sunday morning and I'm just back from a lovely event at the splendid home of Summer Rodman, a board member of the Jack Kerouac Project, a sweet, energetic woman - and an accomplished poet. The Per Danielsson Trio played marvelously complex piano and string bass jazz, the kind Jack would have loved. Joseph Reed Hayes, poet and playwright, read from his work. And I had the opportunity to read from my new - in progress – manuscript, and breathe the same air of some 100 other creative comrades who love art, the beauty of jazz, and the spoken word.

The event was webcast live and I'm sure it will be available to see again through the Jazz on Edge website ( but the real thrill was being there live, drinking the wine, talking about Kerouac, sharing my work with other talented artists - poets, writers, musicians. The creative life was alive tonight in Orlando, a heart beating to the rhythms of so many good souls.

The neighborhood is quiet now; only the crickets and a far-off train whistle hang in the heavy Florida air. But if these were the late 1950s, there would be one other sound carrying over this memorable night: the furious tap of the keys on Kerouac's Underwood, emanating from the small room in the back where Jack wrote until morning under a lonely, naked light bulb. It is said that one of Jack's neighbors used to hear the music of Kerouac's typing move lightly out of the small apartment and into dark night. What I would give to hear a little of that tonight? Ah, but it's early. There are many hours before dawn.

David B

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kerouac Admirers at the Door

Another day of good writing and reading here at Jack's house. I'm working in the early mornings after a bike ride, writing in Jack's room for 3-4 hours. I take a break to eat, make more coffee, take another quick ride, and then edit. I might return in the mid-to-late afternoon to begin again, but only work for another hour or so.

Today, during a break for coffee, I tried my hand at a few haikus. Jack was a master at the Western Haiku, poems not restrained by the 5-7-5 syllable lines. It was like Kerouac to break the rules. There's a book here of Kerouac's haikus, hundreds of them. They inspired me. Not ready to share them yet. I'll let them sit for a day before offering them up.

Just about 5:30pm local time, I had my first "Kerouac hunters" knock at the door. Although that phrase seems a little pejorative, these were not the Kerouac crazies who can show up at Kerouac haunts drunk and full of bravado. These were two nice ladies spending some time in Orlando who just wanted to see Jack's place. They were polite and interested, and well-informed about Kerouac, this house, and his time in Orlando. They took pictures and we talked for a half hour or so. It was good. I suspect they won't be the last.

Tonight, I sit on the front porch, a great cool breeze on a crystal clear night. I'll take one more bike spin before dark and choose a reading I've been asked to perform at a Saturday night benefit for the Jack Kerouac Project. Tomorrow - an early rise, morning writing, and a day spent in the Florida sun.

Can anyone say - paradise...


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Twenty-Four Hours and One Vision of Jack

The back part of this Florida bungalow is where Jack lived with his mother for a time. He rented the space for something like $40 a month, a fortune for a guy who had no real job and had not yet published On the Road. He got word of its publication while living here.

Last night, before going to bed in the front part of the home, I stepped into Jack's room in the dark. There was just a hint of light coming from the north facing window, the outside porch light of the house next door. On the wall in that room is a photograph from a news photographer who came here to take pictures of Jack for a Time magazine article. It shows Jack in that very room, typing the publisher's manuscript from the scroll that was the first draft of The Dharma Bums. There's something of a shyness in his eyes, a reluctance to the fame about to envelope him, which we all know was eventually the root of his demise. I could see only the shadows of that photo, but for a moment, it appeared to slightly move, like an old-fashioned movie house picture show. Of course, it was only the meager light dancing on the black-and-white photo. But I like to think that Jack's energy is what made that photo move. His energy everywhere in this place.

There are also lizards.

Yep, those small central Florida lizards. They'll not exactly in the house, but they are outside. They scurry when I go out to the front porch, fast and furious like Jack's typing. And the gigantic oak tree that shades this home is, as one poet who stayed here said, one large pencil scratching out words on the old tin roof. The branch lightly touches the house as if recording the life of those who are lucky enough to stay inside.

Jack kept hundreds of little notebooks with sketches and words and thoughts, scribbled out with pencil and pen. Maybe that's where Jack's ghost resides - in the beauty of that big oak, scribbling out his musings on the tallest part of the house, the part closest to heaven, nirvana.

Twenty-four hours have passed. I have decided to live in the front section of the house and write in Jack's room, so I can be there when the light again catches that photo.

David B

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Living in Jack Kerouac's House

After 1200 miles of driving, one harsh and heavy rainstorm, and a bad breakfast in Macon, Georgia, I have made it to the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando.

I'm staying in Kerouac's house in the College Park area. I was awarded this opportunity about nine months ago and will be able to stay here and work, write, and look for Jack's ghost through mid-August. I am thrilled to be here.

Incredible story about this house. This is where he lived with his mother when he wrote The Dharma Bums. It was here that he lived when he became an overnight sensation after a tremendous review of On the Road in the NY Times. The house was discovered by a local TV news reporter in Orlando, and when he found it, the place was in shambles. Literally - squirrels ran in and out of it. Long story short - a foundation was formed, and after a long haul and a lot of trip-ups, the place was cleaned out, renovated, and offered to writers by award to stay here and write.

It's a marvelous Florida bungalow. Very small, but cozy, sitting in the leafy neighborhood of College Park with its neat little bars and coffee shops and Infusion Tea - a popular spot for local writers. It's quite a bohemian neighborhood. Kind of fits, huh? Although it wasn't like that when Kerouac came to town.

There was a neighbor who lived across the street when Kerouac lived here. She's gone now. But before she died, she spoke of hearing the furious typewriter keys coming from the Kerouac house late into the evening and through the night, Jack's favorite time to write. Shortly after On the Road was published, Jack gave her a first edition copy and signed it...

To Mrs. McCray
my good neighbor
Jack Kerouac

The book was given to the woman who once lived in Kerouac's house just before Mrs. McCray died. She kept the book in a sealed plastic bag, hoping to save it from the humidity and bugs.

Tonight, I sit on the front porch of this place and look at the Florida stars, longing for a sign from Jack. I may have already received it. I hope to complete a manuscript while I'm here and take in the vibe that must still exist throughout these rooms, must still hang in its wall


Monday, May 9, 2011

On the Road...Soon

In about three weeks I'll be packing up the Nissan and heading south. (Reminds me of the John Hiatt song - "Come on Baby Drive South" - Love that song!) My destination is the Jack Kerouac house in Orlando's College Park neighborhood. A few month's ago I was honored to be awarded the Writer-in-Residence position at the Jack Kerouac Project. I plan to be there, writing and reading and conducting workshops through early August.

Beginning on June 1, I'll be living in the house that Jack built. Well, actually, the house that On the Road built. Kerouac's home in Orlando is where he and his mother lived after the success of On the Road. Kerouac wrote The Dharma Bums in this house in a small back bedroom. Although On the Road is Kerouac's iconic masterpiece, "Bum" may be my favorite of his works.

When I was awarded the residency, one of the organizations of project and foundation that cares for the Kerouac house warned me it would be "hotter than hell" down there in the summer. I don't mind. Bring it on. I'm living in Kerouac's place! Besides, during the renovation of the home organizers figured they better put air conditioning in even though it was not part of the original home. Good thinking. Good for me.

I am currently working on a project related to a Kerouac-inspired trip I took with my two teenage boys a few years ago. So, even though it may seem a little contrived to be working on a manuscript loosely connected to Kerouac in Kerouac's house, it honestly isn't. Truly, it's a coincidence. When I applied for the residency, I never mentioned the project in the form it's now taking. But, I must say, it's kind of uniquely coincidental that this writing project and this residency came together this way. Fate?

I decided to drive to Orlando from Chicago, giving me some flexibility for travel while I'm in Florida. And from my calculations on MapQuest, I'm figuring a two day drive, stopping somewhere in Tennessee for some shut eye. Seems appropriate to take a road trip to get to Kerouac's house, right? A plane? That really wouldn't be true to the process, now would it?

I hope to keep a blog while I'm in Orlando, updating any and all who are interested in my stay there. I hope you'll join me - even if it's in cyberspace - for a very unique experience.

Maybe I'll run into Jack's ghost while I'm there. Who knows.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Books to Re-Read

I am reading for the fourth time in years the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I love this book, it inspires me, keeps me on track with my writing, just when I most need it. I'm writing some fiction and Anne's thoughts on how plot develops - worry about the characters and the plot will come - is just a wonderful piece of advise.

But re-reading Bird by Bird made me think about other writing books that should be re-read.

Here's a great list:

1. Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
2. The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
3. Writing Begins with the Breath, by Loraine Herring
4. Ernest Hemingway on Writing, edited by Larry W. Phillips

Sometimes inspiration comes from the re-do, the re-read. Go back and take another look. It's bound to kick start your work.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Making a Shift

I don't write a lot of fiction, but recently I pulled together a short story, of course, based on SOME fact. I'm not sure I know how to do it any other way. It was okay, but something was missing from the approach. It seemed, well, a bit lifeless. Then just a day ago while on a Southwest flight from a conference in Las Vegas, I had an idea. What if I changed the point of view? What if I changed the main character to the narrator? Because I have written so many personal essays and memoir, along with journalism, this little shift hadn't occurred to me, although in retrospect it now seems like a natural approach.

If in personal essay the narrator is YOU, then way can't the narrator be the main character in the fiction, as if YOU were that person. I know this may seem rudimentary, simplistic, junior high English comp class, but here is the bigger point...

When you are working on a story - any genre - and it just seems flat, awkward, off-balance, try making a shift in the POV. Try writing the same story from the narrator's point of view or another character's point of view. Maybe the girlfriend of the main character tells the story, maybe the mother, the father, a boss, a teacher. Sometimes this immediately brings new life to a story, a new sparkle that was missing in the older version. Have fun with it. Play around. It can give a once flat story some depth and texture.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Chicago's Storytellers.

In my career, I have done a number of readings, mostly portions of my memoir Accidental Lessons. But recently I have been expanding, exploring my storytelling and have been taking part in a couple of Story Club events, along with a event called Essay Fiesta later this month. (April 18th at the Book Cellar in Chicago, 7pm)

Last night I was at Uncommon Ground in the Wrigleyville neighborhood to read a story (First Date) from my new manuscript, Ghost Boxing.

But this is really beside the point.

Here is the real point...

The storytelling community in Chicago, and elsewhere, is really rockin'. There are over six storytelling groups (and probably more that I don't know about) in the city of Chicago, giving writers of all levels a chance to put their material out in front of an audience. If you have never done this before, try it. Make sure you work your "print" story for the "ear" and practice your stage presence. There is no need to be intimidated. There are plenty of first timers, people honing their craft, and learning to shape their stories. But there are also some brilliant performers from which to learn.

The genre - telling a story in front of an audience - is not like a traditional "reading" for an author. Oh sure, you can "read" the work - in fact, I would encourage NOT trying to do it off the cuff or by memory - but learn to bring that story alive with pauses, pace changing, vocal emphasis, whispers, yells, and living dialogue.

One of the more well-known events is The Moth, which is also a public radio show and quite popular. But Story Club, which I have been involved with lately, is wonderfully run and professionally handled. Another up and comer is This Much is True.

I encourage you, if you're a writer, take in an event, see what it's like, and then get out there. Plenty of open-mic opportunities exist. It is a superb way to get immediate feedback on your work. And, needless to say, tons of fun!

Actively reading aloud,

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Support is What a Writer Needs

Had the chance recently to contribute to a wonderful association's newsletter: National Association of Memoir Writers. Such good people. The association supports storytellers at all levels, with all kinds of personal tales to tell.

I hope that my words can somehow help just one of the readers. We all have stories to tell, we just have to know the best ways to tell them.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Reading for Writers...Inspired!

Read a wonderful article in Huffington Post this morning. I thought it was going to be the tired "here's what you should read if you want to be a writer" kind of story. And, it was, but just a little. What was different was this story touched on the writer's own journey and how the books listed would be helpful for the ART of writing, not the SCIENCE of publishing.

Seven Books for Writers- by Deanna Fei

Sure, we all want to be recognized as writers in print, on the web, whatever the distribution mechanism may be. But, writing - true writing - is not about publishing. It's about WRITING.
The list in the Huffington piece points out great choices. Some picks are found on my own list that I present at workshops, and like the Huffington piece, I believe these choices are true to the writing life, not the publishing life. Write first, rewrite second, and publishing will come.

Here's my list. Hope it helps.

  1. Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice

Loraine Herring, Publisher: Shambhala

  1. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Anne Lamott, Publisher: Anchor

  1. The Writing Life

Annie Dillard, Publisher: Harper Perennial

  1. Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer’s Guide

Mark Kramer and Wendy Call, Publisher: Plume

  1. Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir

Lisa Dale North, Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

  1. Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir

Russell Baker, Publisher: Mariner Books

  1. Ernest Hemingway on Writing

Editor: Larry W. Phillips, Publisher: Scribner

  1. The Spooky Art: Thoughts on Writing

Norman Mailer, Publisher: Random House

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Want to Write? Don't Do It for the Money.

A friend on a Yahoo Group recently linked us to an author who was musing about how writer's will make money in the future. I want to know how they're going to make money NOW?

I was at a recent Chicago Writer's Association event giving a presentation about The Writing Life. It's one I've given before in some shape or form. I always talk about "knowing your values." What I mean by that is this: think about why you write; determine what it is that motivates you to put story to paper. Most will say it's not about money. Well, it better not be because you are not going to get rich. Oh sure, there will be a few breakouts who will write a bestseller and get big four-book contracts, but that is a very...very...small percentage.

When I used to work full time in the broadcasting business, I was asked about making money all the time by students and career seekers. "You make a lot, right?" they'd ask. All they had heard about were the salaries of Howard Stern and Oprah. Just like in the literary world, about 1-percent of the broadcasters are millionaires, most rough out a respectable living, some starve. At the recent BEA (Book Expo America), a presenter had a statistic: something like 3-5 percent of the books published sell more than 1000 copies; the rest less fewer. Fewer than 1000!

It's become a cliche, but you better be writing because you can't think of doing anything else that is so satisfying, rewarding, insightful.

Remember - Van Gogh was a pauper. He sold his first painting only after his death. This is not to be negative, it's about "knowing your values." If you're writing because you want to be rich, I would suggest making writing a hobby and go get your MBA. Come to think of it, these days getting your MBA may not make you rich, either. :)

David W. Berner

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Wild, Wild West of Publishing Rides Again

A group of writers from the Chicago Writers Association have been kicking around a discussion about self-publishing and traditional publishing. Not exactly a new fresh subject these days, I know. So much talk about the way to go for an author with a manuscript, and even more talk about readers - how do they really want to read an author's work? Paper, digital bytes?

I saw this in the NY Times this morning...

If you are a writer, looking for a publisher or an agent, this story is worth a read. It's not the typical of the publishing world these days - but, it is a sign, I believe, of how the change has come and is likely never going to reverse itself, of how publishers are rethinking their existence, and of how self-publishing has taken on new and interesting hues, and the colors just keep on changing.

David W. Berner

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Remember the REAL Elizabeth Taylor

I didn't grow up in the Mad Men era of Elizabeth Taylor. I remember her mostly as a celebrity, a philanthropist, and a friend of Michael Jackson. But, even as a little boy, I was keenly aware of the black-n-white images of Taylor, especially from the movies Butterfield 8 and Giant, and I was enthralled. She was stunning, strong, interesting. Even as a pre-pubescent I knew there was something special about her. Oh sure, she was beautiful. But it was more than that. She was real.

Elizabeth Taylor was my mother's favorite. Or, wait, was that Audrey Hepburn? Or Eva Gardner? Well, Taylor was certainly ONE of her favorites. My mother, when she was a young woman, looked a bit like Taylor. Not to take away anything from my mother, but there were a lot of women in those grainy black-n-white photos from the late 50s and early 60s that looked like actresses. Everyone was always dressed up, hair perfect, smiling in that 'ingenue' sort of way. Elizabeth Taylor was part of the reason.

If you only know Taylor as an older woman, heftier than her movie days, sitting in the audience at an awards ceremony, or showing up on a goofy talk show, or making tabloid news with ailments and strange marriages to construction workers, then you have missed out on the story of one of Hollywood's most endearing, candid, talented stars from an era when "star" really meant something.

Over the next few days, maybe over the weekend, rent an Elizabeth Taylor movie - a good one - A Place in the Sun, Giant, Butterfield 8, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (forget Cleopatra) - and marvel how she takes over the screen, but yet seems so accessible. If you're younger than 50, it's likely you know only half of her marvelous story. Take some time to read about, take in, watch the early and middle years of her time before the camera and discover an American original.

David W. Berner

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where is all the good writing? Right in front of you!

I was reading a piece in the latest GQ magazine this morning over oatmeal and coffee. "Operation Iraqi Vacation" by Saki Knafo is a wonderful piece. It's first-person journalism, memoir, and personal essay all wrapped into one. And it got me thinking about where all the good writing is these days? What I mean by that is this - with all the new platforms for writing, where can one find the truly solid, authentic, meaningful writing?

It's not a simple answer, really. But I do have my own observations. GQ, as much as it can be an advertising hound (more ad pages than real writing), it still has at least one tremendous piece of writing every month. But my favorite old-style magazine for great writing remains Esquire. In its heyday it was unmatched. Hemingway wrote in Esquire, for goodness sake! But even today, it has a marvelous bench of writers, consistently producing engaging, interesting, sometimes groundbreaking work, and much of it is personal essay/journalism.

Certainly there's plenty of good writing on the web. SLATE comes to mind, and there are others. Sure, there's a lot of junk on the web. But there are gems too. Obviously, the great writing in the NY Times, The New Yorker, etc. is still there and of course found on the web.

One other thing today - related, somewhat.

It's the birthday today of poet Billy Collins. Who once said, "My poetry is suburban, it's domestic, it's middle class, and it's sort of unashamedly that, but I hope there's enough imaginative play in there that it's not simply poems about barbecuing."
I love this! It reminds me that memoir and personal essay does not have to be fantastical. It does not have to be incredibly harrowing. It just has to relate to the human condition in a way that is uniquely reflective. This also reminds me of John Updike's famous line, "My only duty was to describe reality as it had come to me—and to give the mundane its beautiful due."

Live your day, remember your moments.

David W. Berner

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Online Writing Workshops, Classes

I teach college, and when I teach online classes, they are exclusively writing classes. When I was in school finishing my MFA in Creative Writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University, all of my classes were online. When we met in person it was at a designated residency. They were very helpful and fruitful residencies, I will say. But, honestly, the online writing classes were the best of the process - convenient, efficient, and highly rewarding.

I find the same thing when I teach a class online. Yes, it can be a bit impersonal. But the feedback I am able to give and the give-and-take online between teacher and student works exceptionally well. I am even able to deliver "lectures" on You Tube or Vimeo. Now, not all online classes work as well as writing-based online classes. I believe web-based creative writing workshops, if facilitated well, can be a dynamite experience for everyone.

Don't dismiss taking an online writing class. Sure, check out the credentials of the teacher, the institution or school conducting the class, but be open, willing to work with the new technologies, not against them. It will benefit you and your writing as you move forward as an artist.

David W. Berner

Monday, March 14, 2011

Re-Drafting, Editing, is NEVER Over

I have a few things going on.

First, I have a new manuscript I'm shopping around. Second, I'm beginning (very much BEGINNING) a new manuscript, a child's memoir of the 1960s. Third, I've been doing a number of readings around Chicago. There are a few more things, like touch-up painting at my house, moving furniture around, selling a few things on Craigslist, getting ready for some travel related to writing work - Vegas, Rockford, Illinois and Orlando (I'm pleased to have been named the Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project) - and taking the car to the shop.

The first three, however, have fueled, in a way, yet another "something" I've been doing: editing.

Does it every stop? Every time I send out the manuscript for an agent or editor, I tweak it, compulsively. I change a sentence, rework a paragraph, substitute a word. It's never anything major, but there is ALWAYS...something. Then in the new manuscript, when I write one day and return to it the next for a redraft, I edit again. And with the readings, well, that's continual editing. As many of your know, reading your work, making it ready for the spoken word, sometimes means a bit of rewriting to allow it to be at its best when delivered live. So, yes, more editing.

The redrafting, the editing process, never goes away. You can edit forever. There is never a perfect manuscript, it seems. Even if it's technically right, the subjectivity of an editor or agent will request a shift, a change, an edit in content.

Writing is not a scientific endeavor; it's an art. Creative writing is a living, breathing entity. It has its own life, in many ways, and needs to be massaged. Sure, sooner or later in the real world, we have to say, "This is it. This is as good as it's getting" and stop the redrafting. Deadlines help, right? But sometimes our internal clock, and our internal self-confidence has to allow us to put the work "to bed."

It's not easy, I can attest to that. In fact, this blog entry is coming to an end right now because I have some editing to do.



Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Question of the Day...

Is the personal essay becoming the "I've got something wrong with me" essay? Disease, abuse, death of a loved-one. I've got nothing against this. There is a place for it and some of the writing on these subjects is incredibly wonderful, heartfelt, and strong. But can't we write a couple of personal essays/memoirs that are NOT about the three Ds - death, disease, and dysfunction?

Think Phillip Lopate's - "Confessions of a Shusher" - PLEASE!

Just a thought in my day...

David W. Berner

More Publicity than Charlie Sheen!

Well, not really. But Charlie is EVERYWHERE! So, any author would love to have the level of his pub. Of course, not the content of his pub. Train wreck!

Good things since last checking in...

I was privileged to present at the Writer's Festival at University of Wisconsin this past weekend. Two workshops: one on memoir, another on outlining for creative people. Good students, good group, fun time.

New honor. I'm humbled to have been award 2nd place in the My Kind of Town writing competition for the Chicago Writer's Association. (CWA) Congrats to Cynthia Clampitt for his first place essay, and Geralyn Mcgrady's third place work. Great reading!

And - ACCIDENTAL LESSONS, my memoir, has been featured twice now at Book Daily ( You can go there and read a full chapter, if you like.

Getting ready for a presentation at the Beverly Library in Chicago and then to Rockford for a reading/signing/presentation for a new writer's group and an event at Barnes and Noble. Looking forward to it.

Now, regarding Charlie Sheen - HE should write a memoir! Oh, he is! Well...of course he is....

David W. Berner

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bracelets of Grace and Reading Out Loud!

Hello all! It's been far too long since my last entry. Why is that? Simple. Busy. No excuses. Just busy and many times, as you read from many bloggers, I probably was far too ambitious about keeping the blog up to date. And so it goes, right?

So, to update...

The audio documentary about the Vietnam era POW-MIA bracelets - Bracelets of Grace - has had great airplay on public radio stations all around the country. It will soon be available at as an audio book, along with two other of my audio documentaries - Pebble Beach Stories and Finding My Kerouac.

And, I continue to write and now that I'm on academic sabbatical from my position at Columbia College Chicago, will step-up my efforts to complete a book of essays on fatherhood, tentatively entitled Ghostboxing. AND - I am beginning to do more and more readings at the microphone in venues around Chicago. This past Sunday night, I was thrilled to be part of the Two With Water/Curbside Publishing reading at The Beauty Bar on Chicago Avenue in Chicago. About a month ago, I was also part of a reading/signing event at The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, Chicago. Just the best book store! Hope to get back there soon.

And about reading out loud...

There is nothing as wonderful as sharing literary works out loud in the presence of enthusiastic audiences. The energy, the feedback, the atmosphere of artistic gifts given aloud. I'll be back, somewhere soon, to do it all again.

Keeping writing!

David W. Berner