Author Archive

An Angel Choir, Titans of Industry, and a Writers’ Festival: Western New York’s Chautauqua Institution

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When I arrive in early June to teach at the Writer’s Festival, the Chautauqua Institution is a ghost town. The lake laps against the shoreline and the proliferation of white wicker chairs on the historic Athenaeum hotel veranda are mostly empty.

A Setting out of a Horror Story: Reverse Mirdered at the Red Rim Hotel

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A few years ago, while on a road trip, I glimpsed a sign advertising a motel that I’ll call the Red Rim Motel, because that’s close enough, and will give you some idea of why I did a double-take. The name of the motel made me immediately think of

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Samuel Worthen Ingalls: Discovering the Roots of Favorite Childhood Books in Cuba, NY

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When my daughter was little, we went on a tour of Laura Ingalls Wilder sites in Wisconsin, Kansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Missouri. It was an endless round of log houses, sod houses, dugouts, old churches, schoolhouses, post offices, banks, jails, and depots, hand-dug wells and pump organs, replica

Wildlife as Metaphor: A Roundup of Roadkill Poetry

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I’m repeatedly drawn to certain forms and subgenres of poetry, like villanelles, sestinas, and poems about roadkill. Yes, roadkill poems actually seem to be a subgenre—try googling it. Categories appear: “Short Roadkill Poems,” “Famous Roadkill Poems,” “Long Roadkill Poems.” Examples pop up, including amateur efforts that rhyme kitty with

Donde Esta el Bano?: Bathrooms in Literature

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Whenever I travel, I think back to “The History of the World through Toilets.” This is the title of a series of notes for an epic poem jotted down by Isodora Wing, the narrator of Erica Jong’s 1973 novel Fear of Flying. “British,” it begins: British toilet paper. A


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Monster Trek: The Obsessive Search for Bigfoot Joe Gisondi University of Nebraska Press, February 1 2016 306 pp, $18.95 Buy: paperback | nook | Kindle  “Bigfoot are reported across all social, educational, and economic classes,” writes journalist and professor Joe Gisondi in his new book Monster Trek: The Obsessive

“Doom as Entertainment”: The Johnstown Flood in Art and Literature

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“It’s awful, watching doom as entertainment,” says a character in Kathleen George’s The Johnstown Girls, one of a number of literary works about the Johnstown Flood of 1889 that started with Walt Whitman’s “A Voice from Death,” a commissioned poem that first appeared in the New York World. The

Review: THE PITTSBURGH ANTHOLOGY Edited by Eric Boyd

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The Pittsburgh Anthology Ed. Eric Boyd Belt Books, September 2015 236 pp; $20 Buy paperback “Pittsburgh has always been a scrappy city, characterized by unflapping tenacity, even as outsourcing and the ills of globalization threatened its survival,” writes Kevin Tasker in “Rebirth of the Hollywood Lanes,” one of the

Armchair Traveling through History: The Orphan Trains in Literature

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Between 1854 and 1929, around 200,000 homeless, abandoned, and orphaned American children were sent by train, mostly from New York City, to new homes, mostly in the Midwestern U.S. Later in the twentieth century and early in the twenty-first, in our contemporary versions of the Orphan Trains, planes from

A Castle in Our Backyard: Activating Imaginations in Ireland

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The fiction writing workshop I’m teaching for Spalding University is winding down the day I discover that, behind Oyster Lodge, where our classes meet, at the end of Galway Bay, there’s a small castle. I’m satisfyingly tired after exploring Dublin and Galway through the lenses of their literature and