It would be interesting to make the two people, I now, I then, come out in contrast. And further, this past is much affected by the present moment. What I write today I should not write in a year’s time.
—Virginia Woolf, “A Sketch of the Past,” collected in Moments of Being
Born on a ranch in southern California, I was soon transplanted to southwestern Georgia, where my father raised even more cattle. When I was five, we relocated again, to Satellite Beach, Florida, where I grew up. I went off to the University of Florida, majored in journalism, minored in agriculture, and helped out part-time on the university’s pig farm.
For 15 years, I was a journalist, mostly as a daily newspaper reporter in Georgia, Florida, and Indiana. I won awards for public service and feature writing, as well as a Kiplinger fellowship to Ohio State University. There I acquired a master’s in journalism, though I mostly took graduate seminars in English, philosophy, and American history. Later I earned an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College, Baltimore.
I worked in book publishing for 11 years, including as marketing manager of Ohio University Press/Swallow Press, where I also helped acquire books. Currently I am Editor of the press’s Gene Logsdon Series in Sustainable Living. I am also a Contributing Editor to The Woven Tale Press, a journal of art and literature.
Today I’m a writer, a freelance developmental editor, and a teacher. I have taught memoir and personal essay writing, freshman and advanced composition, media and feature writing, and nature writing at Indiana University, Ohio University, and Otterbein University. Currently I teach essay writing and literary studies at Radford University, and beginning and intermediate memoir workshops in Virginia Tech’s Lifelong Learning Institute.
My Memoir, Essays & Articles
It takes stamina and self mastery and faith. It demands those things of you, then gives them back with a little extra, a surprise to keep you coming.
—Tobias Wolff, In Pharaoh’s Army
Shepherd: A Memoir is an adventure story of dreams, loss, farming, and fatherhood. It was an Ohioana Book Award in Nonfiction Finalist; for more information, please see its book page. Chautauqua nominated an essay adapted from the book, “A Dry Year” for a Pushcart Prize. Another excerpt, “Reclaiming Our Land and Childhood Dreams,” appeared in Utne Reader.
On this site I have published excerpts of Shepherd, including its first Prologue and parts of its first Epilogue. Other biographical samples can be accessed under the blog’s “My Life” category. The site’s Other Prose page also archives selected essays, reviews, and interviews.
Some of my essays and their literary journal homes: Orion for “Gardening and Being”; “Kathy” appeared in Brevity; “Midnight on the Farm” was published by Fourth Genre; “Remembering Paul” was runner-up for an award by its publisher, Memoir (and); River Teeth published “Wild Ducks”; and SNReview “My Father’s Tractor.” “The Founder Effect” was long-listed for the 2017 Notting Hill Essay Prize; Longreads published “The Boom Boom Song” and “Why I Hate My Dog,” which was named a “Best of 2016.” And “Animals Saved Me” won the Hunger Mountain 2017 Creative Nonfiction Prize.
My articles on farming have appeared in Farming: People, Land, Community; Sheep Canada; The Shepherd; and The Stockman Grassfarmer.
Draft No. 4
After reading the second draft aloud, and going through the piece for the third time (removing the tin horns and radio static that I heard while reading), I enclose things in boxes for Draft No. 4. If I enjoy anything in this process it is Draft No. 4. I go searching for replacements for the words in the boxes. The final adjustments may be small-scale, but they are large to me, and I love addressing them.
—John McPhee, “Draft No. 4,” The New Yorker
My blog focuses on prose storytelling in creative nonfiction and fiction, by whatever means of showing and telling. Certain preoccupations have emerged: style, structure, and use of self in narrative prose.
There are two literary cultures in America, academic and New York, and I bivouac between them. The camps are permeable, however, and their borders aren’t well policed. At night, desperate riders on dark horses going in both directions thunder past the picket fires.
For its first five years, the blog was called Narrative. As I explained in a post, I rechristened it in honor of my book’s transforming draft. The next day, I read McPhee’s essay about his joy in his own fourth drafts. Maybe the best compliment the blog and I have ever received came in from a fellow writer, though someone I’ve never met, when I wrote about getting a book contract in Spring 2013:
This blog, its urgency, steady fervor and insight into the art has earned you readers.—DeWitt Henry
Email address: email@example.com
Original writing on this site is Copyrighted by Richard Gilbert. It may be used freely, for noncommercial purposes, with credit.