Novel as waking dream

October 19, 2014 | 7 Comments

The first look at my book’s cover

July 22, 2013 | 23 Comments

My publisher was deadlocked between two covers. I opened the pictured one first and was thrilled by its overall beauty and thoughtful composition. I’d known they were basing the jacket on the picture I took in 2006 of Freckles, with her nursing newborn lambs, standing beside a giant hay bale eaten into a half moon. Color scheme I could only imagine, and font. The big surprise here was the mountain range at the top—wonderful, as it says, “This is a book not just about shepherding but about place.” Yes. The Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio and their human inhabitants are a big part of the story about my and my family’s life there as we operated a sheep farm for a decade. And I thought the full bleed—an image that goes all the way to the edge, no frame—worked well and was enhanced by the artfully used white space. I polled friends and family and former coworkers, and nine out of 12 favored this cover.

The other jacket was an extreme closeup of Freckles’s face, plus the lamb at the right. Very dramatic. But to me, not as complex—and of course complexity can be risky. Those who voted for it liked the “faces” and the “in your face” quality of it, though to me their reasons seemed rather theoretical. And they didn’t know this author’s marketing strategy, which sometimes seems even to me as convoluted as a barrel of fishhooks.

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A novel on memory, story & alibi

October 13, 2010 | 4 Comments

A colleague here at Otterbein University, Noam Shpancer, a psychologist, has just hit the big time at age fifty-one with his first novel, The Good Psychologist. Early reviews are positive to raves: Kirkus gave it a starred notice, Alan Cheuse reviewed it on NPR, and the Boston Globe called it “extraordinary” and “a rare gift.” Bought by Henry Holt at an auction conducted by Noam’s agent, the story is about a therapist who’s treating a stripper with stage fright. And it’s about the …

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Lessons from writing my memoir . . .

August 22, 2010 | 17 Comments

Five years ago I began writing a memoir about my experiences farming in Appalachian Ohio. My official start was September 1, as I recall, but I was gearing up at this time of year, in late August, when the common Midwestern wildflowers are blooming. Right now, you can see flowering together in fertile meadows and damp unkempt roadsides: purple ironweed, saffron goldenrod, yellow daisies, and, above it all, the airy mauve bursts of Joe Pye weed. Shade trees look dusty …

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Dinty’s Google Maps essay

January 19, 2010 | No Comments

Not especially funny or witty myself, perhaps that’s why I admire those who are: I must have opened my blog a half dozen times today to read a first sentence by Anthony Lane in the New Yorker. Then tonight I read it—again—to my wife and laughed, again. It’s one of the wittiest sentences I’ve ever read. Lane’s  follow-up quip is pure gravy. “It got a rise out of Dinty, too,” I told Kathy. “He left a comment today on that …

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Finding a font for our words

January 13, 2010 | 6 Comments

The New Yorker online recently excerpted a passage from Jonathan Lethem’s new novel Chronic City concerning a man who believes his mind to be controlled by the magazine’s font. This mention allowed The New Yorker to reveal: “Fiction editor Deborah Treisman expounded a bit on the font (it’s ACaslon Regular), and how it factors into the story selection process: Often when we’re reading stories, and thinking about them and editing them, we’ll say, ‘Let’s go ahead and put it in …

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Death to dingbats!

August 7, 2009 | 3 Comments

Reading an elegant memoir this week, I became annoyed with the dingbats the publisher inserted in the author’s line breaks, the white spaces he used as transitions between sections in chapters. A dingbat, in this case a set of three square blocks, is “an ornamental piece of type for borders, separators, decorations,” says That’s the third definition—the first is “an eccentric, silly, or empty-headed person” and the second is “dingus,” a “gadget, device, or object whose name is unknown …

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