Monthly Archives: June 2012

Anthony D’Aries CNF W’09 talking _The Language of Men_

Anthony D’Aries CNF W’09 was Randolph College’s Emerging Writer in spring 2011. While there, he finished a draft of his memoir The Language of Men. Bunny Goodjohn P W’07, professor at Randolph and member of their Visiting Writer selection committee, spoke with Anthony shortly after he landed a publishing contract with Hudson Whitman. 

Goodjohn: So, Anthony, how did you get into writing?

D’Aries: I was a very shy kid — still am in some ways — and I think writing was my quiet way of making noise. I had an English teacher in high school, Mr. Driscoll, who was such a cool guy. He taught a creative writing class, played in a band with a few of the other teachers, had long hair and often brought in Tom Waits albums for us to listen to in class. I loved the way he ran the workshop — he would read our work out loud anonymously, even swear words, which some of us took advantage of. I liked that for fifteen minutes the class listened to my thoughts, and I didn’t have to say a word.

Goodjohn: Do you have an elevator pitch for The Language of Men?

D’Aries: A darkly funny look at a father-son relationship, and the unsettled terrain that shapes fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands.

Goodjohn: Why memoir? Why this memoir?

D’Aries: There are those moments when I’m talking about my book and the word “memoir” comes up in the conversation. Some people roll their eyes and think I’m publishing a glorified diary or that I must think my life is so tragic. Sometimes memoirists are viewed as narcissists. But I don’t see it that way. Our lives are our stories and sometimes sharing them makes us and others feel less alone. I was always interested in domestic, suburban stories about families.…The different roles we play in a family and how the dynamic shifts when people step outside those roles. I wanted to write about “normal” families, living “normal” lives, sift the murky waters at home. I didn’t feel the need to read or write about faraway lands when there was so much here I didn’t understand.

Goodjohn: Keyboard or legal pad? Starbucks or the kitchen table? What can you tell us about your process?

D’Aries: Early mornings and coffee. Not much else is consistent for me. Knowing when to stop writing for the day. Sometimes I write best when I’m not writing.

Goodjohn: The Language of Men is about family. Did that have any impact on the shape of the work…where it goes…where it doesn’t?

D’Aries: I think I hesitated the most when I began to write about myself. When I was growing up, I hardly read. But as I got older, I read Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff and Ernest Hemingway and reading their stories was like watching my uncle suck the marrow out of rib bones. These guys didn’t give you much. So for a while, I felt strongly that the scene itself was enough. No reflection. No exposition. I think I was still uncomfortable with memoir itself and didn’t want to bog the story down with me, me, me. But slowly, very slowly, I realized that I could do both. Keep the scene subtle yet also lay down a road map for the reader to follow. The book has a lot to do with masculinity and femininity, and I think the bare-bones scenes I wrote was an attempt to write in a macho way and the digressions and questions (the parts I often edited out) were too flowery and feminine. A lot of the book is about me asking questions, questioning masculinity and gender roles and sexuality and all the things that men like my father summed up as “Well, it is what is.” Marrying a feminist from a strong family of women exposed me to different viewpoints. I began to no longer be satisfied with flippant answers.

So, back to the question: It took me some time to feel like it was NECESSARY to show my mind at work on the page, to write thoughts and reflection and questions. To doubt myself. To second guess myself. To allow myself to hint at things I don’t know about my family. I also realized I couldn’t dig into other people’s lives unless I was willing to unearth my own. My family has always read my work and my father was very willing to be interviewed by me. At many points I felt: Wow, all I had to do was ask.

Goodjohn: Sue Silverman says, “What shrinks readership is the failure of writers to take emotional and stylistic risks.” What is the grandest emotional and/or stylistic risk you’ve taken in your writing?

D’Aries: I think writing about me and my wife Vanessa was a risk for me. Some of the things I write about were and are sore spots in our relationship, those topics couples skate around when someone breaches the subject. But I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to accept that married couples are supposed to act a certain way.

Goodjohn: You work or have worked as an Instructor inside the Corrections system. Can you tell us a little about that and whether that experience has had any impact on your own writing or on your outlook on writing?

D’Aries: Because the book deals with how men express themselves, often times non-verbally, I think the way my students at the prison are silenced had an impact on me. I teach basic literacy, many guys can hardly read or write. I encourage them to talk in my class, share their opinions. It’s hard, at first. Like learning another language. But most of the time, at one point or another, they’ll open up. I think there are different levels of silence, how we communicate with others and ourselves. What’s interesting is the scene in the book about my classes is dialogue-driven. Our discussions are loud and the personalities in class are all over the map. Some of the toughest men I’ve met have been scared off by three-syllable words.

Goodjohn: If you couldn’t write or teach, what job do you think you are best suited for?

D’Aries: Perhaps a therapist. I like listening to people. Or maybe a traveling salesman of some kind. I enjoy teaching because it allows for moments of intense interactions and periods of isolation. Prepare alone and then jump in to a room full of people. I need a job that has both. I used to think I could do a job without interacting with people all day, but eventually, my mind feels stagnant. So traveling salesman could work — long drives, then meetings, then long drives. Do those jobs still exist?

Goodjohn: What was the hunt for an agent/publisher like for you?

D’Aries: I’d been working on The Language of Men for five years. After my time at Randolph, I got to a place where I felt it was finished. I didn’t realize I’d feel that way many more times. But I think it was important for me to feel and believe that each of those drafts was the final. It gave me permission to back off for a while and let it sit and then get back to it and see what I needed to fix. Then I started writing query letters to agents. But the book still didn’t feel finished to me, and writing a query about a book I didn’t fully understand yet was slow-going, at best. I felt like “okay, if I write this query, then that’s what the book will have to be about.” So, the query got rejected a bunch of times. A few agents took a peek at the manuscript, but rejected it. Then I got discouraged, hit a wall with the manuscript itself and wasn’t sure where to go. Then I met Bill Patrick at Hudson Whitman Press. We crossed paths at Stonecoast years ago. I told him about the book and he seemed interested and willing to work with it. These past few months have been incredible for me because Bill and I formed that writer-editor relationship that I thought didn’t think exist anymore. I sent him what I had plus pages and pages of raw material and together we shaped it. I remember hearing Tracy Kidder talk about his relationship with his editor Richard Todd, how Tracy would read drafts over the phone to Richard and vice versa. I didn’t think anyone could care about my book as much as me, but if it’s possible, then Bill was that person for me. From what I’m told, this type of situation is rare, so I feel lucky.

Goodjohn: The printing press changed the relationship between writer and audience. It also changed the nature of that audience. Do you feel the e-book is forcing a similar change?

D’Aries: Perhaps. I like paper books. So much of writing is intangible — thoughts, questions, Word documents, emails, etc., so it’s nice to have something to hold at some point. But as much as I find it sad watching people in restaurants stare down at their phones through dinner, I notice that my younger cousins are voracious readers and now they constantly have access to words. Does it make the work seem more disposable? Perhaps, but there are benefits, too.

 Goodjohn: Where can we get hold of “The Language of Men”?

D’Aries: The book is available for pre-order through my website, www.anthonydaries.com and will be available through Amazon and your local bookstore by July.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Bunny Goodjohn is the author of Sticklebacks and Snow Globes (Permanent Press, 2007). She has published in various journals including The Texas Review, The Cortland Review, Zone 3, and Reed Magazine and has work forthcoming at Connecticut Review. Goodjohn recently won the 2011 Edwin Markham Poetry Prize.

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July 2012 Reunion Schedule

STONECOAST ALUMNI REUNION 2012
July 12-15 | Brunswick, ME

The Stonecoast Alumni Association presents the 2012 Alumni Reunion held at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The reunion includes panel discussions, workshops, readings, and an opportunity to network with the talented writers of the Stonecoast MFA program. Written below is the schedule for the alumni reunion. You can also SCAA Reunion Brochure.

THURSDAY

2-3:30 pm | Workshops* | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 127

3:30-5 pm | Reunion Registration, Welcome & Introduction | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

5-6 pm | How to Self-Promote and Still Have Time to Write | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

7-7:30 pm | Stonecoast Alumni Flash Reading with Erin Underwood, Lexa Hillyer, Morgan Callan Rogers, Christin Geall | The Inn at Brunswick Station, 4 Noble St, Brunswick, ME

7:30-8 pm | Stonecoast Guest Faculty Reading: Jeff VanderMeer | The Inn at Brunswick Station

8-10 pm | Stonecoast Alumni Mixer | The Inn at Brunswick Station

FRIDAY

9:00-10:45 am | Workshops* | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 127

11 am-12 pm | Broaden Your Horizons: Panel Proposals, Community Readings and Collaborative Projects | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

1-2 pm | To Self-Publish, or Not to Self-Publish: That is the Question | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

2:15-3:15 pm | The Writer Beyond the Writing | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

3:30-4:30 pm | Now and Then and Then, Again: Time in Creative Nonfiction | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

4:30-5:30 pm | Alumni Discussion Open Forum | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

7-8:30 pm | Featured Stonecoast MFA Reader: Nahid Rachlin | The Inn at Brunswick Station

SATURDAY

9-11 am | Workshops* | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 127

11 am-12 pm | Testing the Character of our Characters | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

1-2 pm | Life After and Life with an MFA: Careers and Jobs | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

2:15-3:15 | First Book Stories: From the Muse to the Marketplace | Bowdoin Searles Bldg, Rm 126

4:45-6:15 pm | Stonecoast Reception for Alumni & 2012 Graduates | Stone House

7-8 pm | Stonecoast MFA Graduation Ceremony | Freeport High School Performing Arts Center, 30 Holbrook St, Freeport, ME

8:00-11:00 | Graduation Reception & Dance | The Inn at Brunswick Station

SUNDAY

10:30 am-12 pm | Alumni and Graduating Student Meeting | Stone House, Casco Room Porch

7-9 pm | Community Dinner** | Estes Lobster House, 1906 Harpswell Neck Road, South Harpswell, ME 04079.

*Workshops require pre-registration and additional payment to the SCAA.
**The Community Dinner requires onsite registration and additional payment to Stonecoast.

~   *   ~   *   ~

PANEL DESCRIPTIONS

How to Self-Promote and Still Have Time to Write
Publishers and agents expect you to promote yourself. Being your own marketing director is a full-time job itself, but you can efficiently pare down the duties so you still have time to write. This panel will discuss options for self promotion, how to prioritize which options are best for you, and how create a ten-minute daily promotion plan.
Amy Martin CNF W’12 (m), Erin Underwood PF S’09

To Self-Publish, or Not to Self-Publish: That is the Question
In this digital age of publishing what route is the right one to take? What opportunities might we gain by skipping the traditional publishing track by going direct to self-publishing? What benefits might we lose? This panel will discuss self-publishing from a pragmatic standpoint and will invite the audience to share their own experiences.
Erin Underwood PF S’09 (m), Amy Martin CNF W’12, Kevin St. Jarre

Broaden Your Horizons: Panel Proposals, Community Readings and Collaborative Projects
Attending conventions and conferences for writers is a terrific way to network and connect with people in every layer of the publishing industry. However, there is a point when it’s time for you to participate on one of the featured panels. How do you turn a good discussion topic into a great panel submission? This presentation will discuss the ins and outs of preparing panel submissions and give you tips on volunteering to participate on conference panels where full panel proposals aren’t needed.
Mihku Paul-Anderson F S’10

Now and Then and Then, Again: Time in Creative Nonfiction
A craft-oriented session that looks at approaches to time in the memoir and creative nonfiction. Retrospection, chronology, personae, tense, flashbacks, and narrative distance will be explored using specific examples and exercises.
Christin Geall CNF S’07

First Book Stories: From the Muse to the Marketplace
We’ve all heard the horror stories about getting a first book published. Yes, it can be discouraging and daunting, but it’s not impossible. Four Stonecoast alums (a poet, an essayist, a crime fiction writer, and a literary novelist) share the realities and the surprises – good and bad – in their post-MFA experiences working with agents and finding a publisher for their work.
Ellen Meeropol F W’06 (m), Marcia Brown, Tom MacDonald F W’09, Penelope Schwartz Robinson

Testing the Character of our Characters
As students of writing, we often hear the admonition that our characters should surprise us, that if they don’t surprise us, they won’t surprise our readers either. But how do we create the conditions that allow our characters to surprise us? This seminar will postulate that one effective way to develop characters that surprise the writer is to insert them into morally ambiguous situations without the writer knowing what the outcome will be when the characters face them. We’ll examine poems and prose excerpts and participate in a writing exercise where we’ll encourage our characters to test themselves in order to illuminate who they really are and who they have the potential of becoming.
Jeff Kass F S’09

The Writer Beyond the Writing: What to do and How to be When You Aren’t at the Keyboard
You’ve spent untold months working on your manuscript, and years polishing your prose style. You’ve been mentored by the best. You’ve got a shelf full of books on craft, and a nicely framed MFA. The writing is where it needs to be…but what about you? Is there something holding your career back, something that goes beyond what’s on the page? Join our panel as we share tips to keep your MS out of the slush pile and strategies that will take you to the top of your game.
Libby Cudmore PF S’10 (m), Matthew Quinn Martin PF S’10, Lexa Hillyer P S’10

Life After and Life with an MFA: Careers and Jobs
The Stonecoast MFA has long advised students to regard the MFA as an opportunity to develop one’s talents and not as a vocational degree–like the PhD or MBA. Yet many students still expect to gain access to careers and positions not open to them prior to completing their degree. Are these expectations realistic? How can you make the best use of your new degree? What are SC graduates doing to support themselves?
Bruce Pratt F S’04 (m), Hank Garfield, Bunny Goodjohn, P W’07

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