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Cocktail Hour

Bad Advice Wednesday: Listen to Bill

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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…

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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

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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 →

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

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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 →

The Remedy for Love Pretend Dinner Party and Group Interview

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence / Table For Two: Interviews

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It’s such a pleasure to talk about a new book with friends and acquaintances that I thought I’d host a dinner party to do just that, invite a bunch of writers, readers, booksellers, radio hosts, filmmakers, and musicians, among others, to a bash in celebration of The Remedy For Love.  We’ll meet somewhere nice, since it’s all going to be pretend anyway.  I’m thinking Kauai, the garden isle of Hawaii, and will foot the pretend bill for all that pretend travel to a pretend luau, complete with fire dancing and hula lessons, all under a flapping tent, ocean breezes, tropical warmth, a fine contrast to the weather in the new novel, which is cold, cold, cold, a blizzard of epic proportions.  I’ve given my guests just a little to go on—a quick description of the novel (a small town lawyer tries to help a homeless woman and ends up stuck in a cabin with her during the storm of the century…) , and the quotes above from Peter Heller and David Abrams (two terrific novelists I had the good fortune to meet on the Life Among Giants tour).  Because, I don’t want to give away too much!  And now, everyone’s assembled, huge round table, cheerful (and well-tipped) servers dropping fabulous food, bowls of rum punch, bottles of wine.  Everyone has a gift copy of The Remedy for Love, still gaily wrapped (do not open until October 14, 2014, which is publication day!).  The dancing has yet to begin.  Amid the laughter, someone speaks up, gets us started. Continue reading →

Serial Sunday: Crash Barry’s “Tough Island” (Final Episode and Afterword!)

categories: Cocktail Hour / Reading Under the Influence / Serial Sunday

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Shaking hands with Cap’n Donald


Occasionally, I wonder how my life would have been different if I had stayed on the island and bought a crumbling fishhouse and wharf that was for sale for a mere five grand. Could’ve fixed it up and turned it into the coolest pad. Problem was, the shack was right next door to Donald’s wharf and he’d be the worst neighbor. He didn’t wave at me once after I stopped working for him. If I was walking down the road, he’d drive by and look the other way. Mary-Margaret didn’t wave either. And when I bumped into her at the post office, she’d silently glare at me with an icy gray stare. Continue reading →

Getting Outside Saturday: Some Summer Sightings (A Photo Haiku)

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A tiger moth type that I call Rio Jesus moth, or blackbird moth…

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A Morning with William James

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It’s been a busy summer and it has flown by. Tomorrow is our last day in Cambridge and, despite the last-minute busyness and grading, I finally did something this morning that I have wanted to do all summer.  I headed over to Houghton Library and spent a little time with the papers of my new-old friend, William James.


One of the nice surprises of going through his letters and notes was to find that many were spotted with caricatures. The first file I opened, after it had risen from the bowels of Houghton in the elevator (signally its arrival by the hum and the click of the elevator) contained this drawing of a meeting at a shoe stand between James and Emerson:



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Bad Advice Wednesday: Hold Onto Your Delusions

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           When I played Ultimate Frisbee, I sometimes billed myself as “the greatest player of all time—by far.” Of course I wasn’t. It was meant mostly as a joke, an Ali-like brag and also a parody of some other Ultimate players I knew who, unrestrained by coaches or media or reality, could imagine they were the greatest that had ever played.


But it wasn’t entirely a joke either, at least not in my mind. Not that I ever objectively thought that I was the best player, either at the time or of all time. But I sure as fuck wanted to be. And I would contend that it was that desire, and the corresponding internal exaggerations of the glory that would befall me as my greatness was achieved–and, it went without saying, became clear for all to see–that was part of what drove me during those years.


It goes without saying that lofty ambitions are painful, especially when you fall short of them. An argument can always be made for a more “realistic” commonsensical approach and that is an argument I understand.

But there is something to be said for the fuming, fretting, planning, obsessing, worrying and of course constant working that is required to attain more. Obviously I am not talking about just Frisbee any more. One of the fascinating things for me about the writing program where I Continue reading →