Building the Shack

categories: Cocktail Hour


I’m out in the shack this morning, working on an essay about birds I have seen here. thought I would re-post this piece from the week I built this place:


Robinson Jeffers took eight years to build his stone home, Tor House ,and the adjacent Hawk Tower, both built out of granite and poised on a Big Sur cliff.  Mary Oliver’s account of building the cabin behind her Cape Cod home, in Winter Hours, describes no less than a spiritual journey.


As for me, I slammed my writing shack together last weekend.


To each his or her own.

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Bad Advice Wednesday Greatest Hits: Finding Time to Write

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour


Two missives this week, one from WriterMom, the other from Jean Witlow in Corvallis, Oregon, with very close to the same question.  WriterMom: “I teach four sections of composition at two different colleges, and have three kids, 6-8-12.  My husband is deceased.  I write an infrequent column for the local paper.  But that’s it for writing.  I want to know how to get my book written when I have no time and never will.”  She goes on to describe the book (almost a pitch—first advice: don’t do that—you come off like an infomercial or a flight attendant).  And it sounds good, a memoir of her husband and the risk taking that finally killed him.  Next, with as little punctuation as possible, Jean Witlow says, “Here I am finally with my MFA and my book basically written it was my thesis but needs some work and I’m goingcrazy because I can’t work on it half the time and I get a whole day and just sit there and don’t even write.  Very depressing, so I avoid it.” Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Book Lounge: “Joe,” by Larry Brown

categories: Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns / Reading Under the Influence


Larry Brown


The mysterious alchemy that brings books into my life has always fascinated me. I seldom fail to finish books because it’s always so evident that the book in my hands is there for a timely reason, as though there is a god of reading that has placed it there. Often titles appear off the lips of a network of fellow bibliophiles and so recently when friends Monica Wood and Robert Vitesse, voracious readers both, mentioned the astonishing impact of the fiction of Larry Brown on the same day, I immediately went to my shelves and pulled out a copy of Joe and began reading. Continue reading →

“The Remedy For Love” Book Tour!

categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside


Coming October 14, 2014


Save the Date! THE REMEDY FOR LOVE Book Tour is coming to a city near you. Warm thanks to my incredible publisher, Algonquin Books! Valuable prizes for those who come the furthest to each event! Let’s get a drink after!  Here’s the schedule as of now: Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Sonya Huber

My Shadow Syllabus

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour / Guest Columns


  1. I’ll tell you exactly how to get an A, but you’ll have a hard time hearing me.
  2. I could hardly hear my own professors when I was in college over the din and roar of my own fear.
  3. Those who aim for A’s don’t get as many A’s as those who abandon the quest for A’s and seek knowledge or at least curiosity.
  4. I had bookmarked a citation for that fact, and now I can’t find it anywhere.
  5. The only way to seek knowledge is to open your hands and let your opinions drop, but that requires even more fear. Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Listen to Bill

categories: Cocktail Hour

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Bill is guest starring over at the Lookout-Ecotone blog and we have decided to do a little cross-pollinating:


In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors, cover artists, and editors from peer presses and magazines to tell us what they’reimage                                                                                            working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask. Bill Roorbach‘s stories have twice appeared in the pages of Ecotone. In this post, he recounts the origin of his story “Broadax Inc.,” reprinted in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.


“Broadax Inc.” came about because of a ten-day power failure here in western Maine a few years ago, one that had nothing to do with weather (which would be the usual case), but with a technical break somewhere in the grid that caused cascading outages as switches and transformers and other bits and pieces no one of us knows enough about to fix overloaded and burned up—real flames. Continue reading →

Coming Next Spring…

categories: Cocktail Hour

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This is a copy of the cover of the advanced reading copy, not the book itself.

Bill’s Sunday Sermon: It’s Not About Strength

categories: Cocktail Hour / Sunday Sermon


So many posts and articles and op-eds and letters and emails about Robin Williams’s sad death, and yet another picture of the media at work, with assumptions run as facts (Williams was back on the sauce? Not true according to his wife, who says he was battling Parkinson’s, and had always battled depression).  A lot of moving paeans and memories, too, lovely and sad and instructive.  But also a thread of blame: Suicide is selfish.  And anger: How could he do this to his family? (Subtext being: How could he do this to me?).  And no doubt awakened trauma, as nearly all of us have been through some version of this very public death in our own lives…  How could Mr. Williams, or anyone, make such a dire choice? Continue reading →

Guest contributor: Bill Lundgren

Lundgren’s Book Lounge: “The Fog of Forgetting,” by Genevieve Morgan

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence

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I’ve never been an ardent reader of the genre called ‘young adult’ fiction, probably because such books didn’t seem to exist when I was a young reader… or if they did, I was unaware of them. Recently we have seen an explosion of books categorized as Y.A., including many that transcend the limitations of the category of  ‘young adult’: these are simply gorgeously written stories whose main characters happen to be kids.  Continue reading →

Bad Advice Wednesday: Greatest Hits

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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Bill and friends, August, 1972


One of the many curious things about the act of writing is the way it can give access to the unconscious mind. And in the hidden parts of consciousness lie not only hobgoblins and neurotic glimmers, but lots of regular stuff, the everyday stuff of memory. The invisible face of your grade school bully is in there, somewhere, and the exact smell of the flowers on vines in your grandma’s backyard, along with most everything else, perhaps including borrowed memories, even false ones. Some memories are going to be painful, but some pleasurable, too. An awful lot is just informational, the stuff of lost days. Continue reading →