Clarity, with a Certain Descriptive Flair: Interview with Nate Chinen

by Kristen Holt-Browning

This is some town: last year, I received a notification from the library that a book I had requested had come in and was ready for me to pick up. As I walked in, I happened to run into an acquaintance, a fellow PTA mom at our kids’ school. She asked what I was up to, and I replied, “Oh, just picking up this new book on jazz. I heard it’s good, thought I’d check it out.” She gave me a quizzical look and asked for the title. Huh, didn’t know she’s a fan of jazz, I thought as I replied, “Playing Changes by someone, I can’t remember his name.” “Nate Chinen,” she said. “He’s my husband!” Naturally, I forced her to put me in touch with him so I could get him to join us at Get Lit! And, I snagged an interview:

GLB: I’m interested in how your own background in music—if any—shaped and influenced your writing career. Have you ever played an instrument yourself? Do you think a background in music is necessary to write about music? Why or why not?

NCI don’t think musical training is essential for a music journalist, any more than practical filmmaking experience is necessary for a movie critic. But there’s no question that fluency in music is extremely useful, and probably a crucial advantage. My own experience bears this out. I grew up in a family of entertainers, and I gravitated to the drums at an early age. I studied jazz drumming and thought it might be my career. I went to college in a city with a deep jazz pedigree, throwing myself into the local scene. At the same time, I was studying poetry as an English major, and somehow this led to freelance work as a jazz critic for the local alternative weekly paper. As I learned on the job, I realized that my musical background informed what I did, often in invisible ways. It wasn’t just the technical stuff — it was an awareness of the culture on and off the bandstand, and the way jazz musicians related to the world. That still guides my work.

GLB: Personally, I find the idea of writing about another art form fascinating. What, do you think, is the key to writing well about music? What’s the value of writing about jazz for your reader—that is, how does reading about jazz enhance or interact with the experience of listening to jazz, either live or recorded? 

downloadWriting about music is a slippery topic, because there are a handful of different ways to do it well. For me, the best approaches always combine clarity with a certain descriptive flair, along with some tether to a broader context (historical, biographical, cultural). And I’m the sort of writer who always seeks out the music in language, so it’s a fun challenge to evoke the texture of a sound, or the feeling in a room. When I was working as a critic for the New York Times, a lot of my job involved going out to the clubs and reviewing a show — with the idea that I was documenting something for posterity, but also providing a service for people who might want to catch the engagement later in the week. Now that I write mainly for the Web, in an era when anyone can cue up a song within moments, I’ve adopted a slightly different approach. The way I see it, the role of a critic has shifted from that of “gatekeeper” to “guide.” A guide is someone who can provide helpful context, or point out subtle details you might have missed, or show you how things connect, or keep you in the know. Ideally, the writing enhances an experience of the music — along with letting people know that it’s out there in the first place.

static1.squarespaceGLB: The people reading this interview are lovers of books, but might not know much about jazz. Can you give us a few recommendations? What programs or artists should we be listening to and following?  

One suggestion I always give people who ask this question is: find out whether there’s a scene in your backyard, and start checking it out. Jazz is a music that really comes alive in close quarters, and in real time. Those of us who live in Beacon now are lucky to have so much vital improvised music around us: at Quinn’s, and the Howland Center, and across the river at The Falcon. Go check it out! You’ll be supporting artists directly, and you’re sure to get something out of it.

That said, I’d be remiss if I didn’t put in a plug for WBGO, where I serve as editorial director. It’s a 24-hour jazz radio station that streams online, and I produce a ton of content for the website, (One popular feature is Take Five, an annotated list of five notable new tracks, posted every Monday. Follow those recommendations for a while, and you’ll have a good handle on the scene.) As for artists to follow, I’ll restate my endorsement of the artists profiled in Playing Changes, each of whom has kept doing fantastic work since the book was published. I’m writing these answers from a train in Holland, where I attended a festival and saw another mind-blowing performance by singer Cécile McLorin Salvant and pianist Sullivan Fortner — the first two artists mentioned in the book, on page 1 of the Foreword. It’s exciting how much energy is on the scene now. If you’re just getting into the music, you picked a great time.

Nate Chinen was a critic for the New York Times for more than a decade, and he is currently the director of editorial content at WBGO, the global leader in jazz radio. His book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century, explores the many changes—ideological, technological, theoretical, and practical—that jazz musicians have learned to navigate since the turn of the century, touching on topics such as commercialized jazz education, the synergies between jazz and postmillennial hip-hop and R&B, and in-depth profiles of influential artists including the saxophonists Steve Coleman and Kamasi Washington, the pianists Jason Moran and Vijay Iyer, and the bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding.

He lives in Beacon with his wife and two daughters.

Nate will be our featured guest on November 10!

Beacon’s Own Nerds with Knives: Emily and Matt Clifton

Interview by Julie Chibbaro

Beacon, N.Y. is a small but fertile city. We have lots of fresh food and creative people. When those two come together, the results can be magical.

Emily and Matt Clifton are two such creative people. They’re not professional chefs, but they love to cook, and they’ve managed to share their love of cooking with a whole lot of people through instagram and their website, nerdswithknives, and now, through a new cookbook, Cork and Knife , which focuses on cooking with booze!


I found a moment to catch up with them and ask a few questions. We’ll get to hear more from them on October 13, at our Get Lit Beacon literary salon at Oak Vino in Beacon (5-8pm).

GLB: So, you wrote a cookbook! Where did the idea for this come from?

E & MC: We were actually approached by the publishers, Page Street, who have developed a pretty solid range of cookbooks and other non-fiction publications. I think they do a lot of outreach to established food bloggers where they feel the style would work well in book format. We went through some ideas over phone calls and after one conversation where a lot of our ideas were gently rejected (mostly because they already had similar books in the planning) we were asked if we had any other thoughts and, after we shared a slightly panicked look, Emily said “well . . . we do cook a lot with booze” and that was that.

GLB: How did your audience find out about you?

E & MC: It was a slow process! The first year or so of writing for the blog, our audience was pretty much just our mums and any polite friends we could convince to visit the site and leave a nice comment. We weren’t taking it seriously at all so we posted very sporadically (a no-no), didn’t really have any kind of theme (another nope), and our photos were pretty terrible (not a great look for a food blog).

Around the second year as we got more into it, we began to find our voice, and Emily upped her photography game so we also began to develop a visual style. We learned a lot about the web development and all the social media things that you need to do in order to expand your reach. At one point we got a ping from a forum in Hungary that linked to one of our recipes and there appeared to be a very energetic conversation about it. We still don’t know what they were saying, but it was a lovely signal that we’d expanded beyond the circle of people who could pick us out of a line up.

GLB: Do you follow any other cooking shows? What are some faves?

E & MC: We would (and still do) watch anything with Anthony Bourdain. He had such a unique way of seeing deep into the heart of so many communities through their food. He showed us that food encompasses everything about a culture; what it values, what it finds pleasurable, what its politics are.

A Chef’s Life on PBS is great. We love Vivian Howard and made a special trip to visit both her restaurants in Kinston, NC, last year. It’s less a ‘cooking’ show than it is a portrait of a talented and charming chef going back to the food of her roots, specifically eastern North Carolina. She visits farmers, cooks with elderly ladies who’ve been making the same dish for 60 years and stresses out about having two very busy restaurants. It’s wonderful. Similarly, Mind of a Chef, also on PBS, showcases a wide range of creative chefs and their behind-the-scenes recipe development.

Samin Nosrat’s “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat” was an incredible explosion of knowledge, passion and just throwing her heart into cooking. She’s one of those people who is so enthusiastic about what she’s doing that it’s infectious. You can’t want watch her and not become a better cook. Or at least a better eater.

We’re excited to come and talk with you at Get Lit!

Matt and Emily live in Beacon, New York, with their dog Arya; cats Trixie and Ziggy; and variable numbers of chickens (the count is currently three).

Putting Ghosts to Rest with Love: Interview with Catherine Arra

by Kristen Holt-Browning

When I started writing poetry again a couple of years ago, after a decade-long lapse , one of the first people I looked up online was Catherine Arra, my high-school creative writing teacher. I was happy to see that she has continued teaching–and impressed to learn that she has published several books, including her latest collection, Writing in the Ether. I felt like a nervous, eager student all over again as I asked Ms. Arra (I’m still getting used to calling her by her first name!) her thoughts on poetry in relation to prose, and how teaching and publishing interact with and live alongside the practice of poetry.


GLB: I’m always interested in why poets choose to, or feel compelled to, write in verse rather than prose. Your most recent book, Writing in the Ether, seems to be a deep exploration of lineage and family history, how generations interact and how their choices continue to reverberate through the years. Why did you want to write a book of poems on these topics? What does verse allow you to do that prose perhaps wouldn’t? 

CA: I think all poets write at least one book that explores their own genesis. Writing in the Ether is mine. I wanted to experiment with writing memoir in a nonlinear manner, and in both poetry and prose. Some content naturally worked better as poetry, other content as prose. For the most part, I allowed the writing to choose its genre.

Originally, Writing in the Ether contained seven additional prose pieces, but this made the book lengthy and difficult to publish. Most small literary presses want collections of poems or short stories, not a hybrid; however, I was determined to keep the mix. Writing in the Ether was revised, resequenced, and renamed four times over four years before it reached its present form.

What motivated me to write this book were specific memories or gaps in memory that haunted me. I wanted to go back to find lost threads, weave them into my history, and put some ghosts to rest—with love. Poetry worked best for the more elusive memories by enabling me to offer essence with narrative, to render people and experiences in a series of dots—much like connect-the-dot coloring books, wherein the dots are connected with lines in order to create a composite image. For me, the dots became a map too, and the poems specific markers, tributes, or prayers. In many ways the creative work of “writing in the ether,” as the title suggests, became a healing process of acceptance and letting go.

GLB: Although you removed some prose pieces, you did retain several of them. I’m not sure if I should call them “prose poems,” or if perhaps “mini-memoirs” ismore accurate. How do you categorize the prose pieces in Writing in the Ether (if you do at all)? And why are these works written in prose rather than a poetic form?

CA: I would place the prose pieces in the genre of flash creative nonfiction, since they range from approximately 400 to 1,500 words. They are nonfiction memoir; and yet they possess the lyrical quality, sense imagery, and compression of statement characteristic of poetry. The six prose pieces in Writing in the Ether didn’t work as poems and needed a more fluid narrative form, with dialogue.

GLB: This is your fourth book. You also have two upcoming books (Women in Parentheses) (Aldrich Press/Kelsay Books, 2019) and Her Landscape: Poems Based on the Life of Mileva Marić Einstein (Finishing Line Press, 2020). You also taught high school Creative Writing for twenty years; now you teach part-time and run writing groups. How did, and does, teaching affect your writing process? How do you find publishers and publishing opportunities as a poet?

CA: All true! I taught high school English for thirty-four years, Creative Writing for twenty years, and I’ve been writing poetry since I was a teenager. As a teacher, I made it my practice to write with my students. I’ve always believed that teachers should model what they teach, to show as well as tell, and to do what they teach. For me, that meant being a reader, thinker, and writer. I usually wrote with my Creative Writing students and completed the exercises and assignments I gave them through units in poetry, short story, and drama. I learned with and from them through the collaborative workshop style of the course. Consequently, I produced folders and folders of raw material.

When I retired in 2012, I finally had the time to revise, edit, and submit that work for publication. My four published books are a blend of old and new material. My forthcoming book, (Women in Parentheses), is a similar blend, while Her Landscape: Poems Based on the Life of Mileva Marić Einstein is entirely new poetry that was written in a burst last winter, though I think Mileva’s story has been inside me since the mid-1990s, when I first learned about her and her life as the first wife of Albert Einstein.

For me, Her Landscape was another challenge, this time to write a book of persona poems based on research.

Now my folders are empty, and I’m writing new poems about wildlife, particularly the deer family that coexists with me. Like the Mileva poems, the deer poems seem to grab me and insist that I write them. I comply, not knowing what will become of them. For now, I’m enjoying the creative surge and ride.

About publishing:

Getting poems or manuscripts published is another type of work, which requires reading literary journals, poetry books and reviews, networking, subscribing to email lists that offer calls for submissions, and doing the research necessary to find small presses and journals that will likely be a good fit for my work.

I strongly suggest joining a good writing critique group for valuable feedback as you move through the stages of drafting and revising, and before you submit work for publication. When I couldn’t find a writing group near me, I started one at the Stone Ridge Library (in Ulster County, NY) and modeled the group after the writer’s critique circle I used in my Creative Writing classes.

No one lives or writes in a vacuum, and it’s important to work with other writers, to test your work on an audience, and to be willing to accept critical feedback. And, finally, it’s important to accept rejection from publishers (there will be lots of it) and to not lose your focus, intent, or your love for writing.

Catherine Arra is a former high school English and writing teacher. Since leaving the classroom in 2012, her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary journals online and in print, and in several anthologies. She is the author of Writing in the Ether (Dos Madres Press, 2018) and three chapbooks, Tales of Intrigue & Plumage (FutureCycle Press, 2017), Loving from the Backbone (Flutter Press, 2015), and Slamming & Splitting (Red Ochre Press, 2014). She is a native of the Hudson Valley, where she teaches part-time and facilitates local writing groups.

Catherine will be our featured guest on August 11! 

An Eye on the Water: Interview with Ronnie Farley

by Julie Chibbaro

You’ve seen her shock of white hair like an aura of wisdom. If you live in Beacon, or anywhere along the New York State Watershed, you’ve seen Ronnie Farley. She is a known entity, a professional photographer, a published author, and a person who very much cares about our environment, though sometimes she can be invisible, like any great tender of things. She was also one of my sister’s best friends, a woman who cared for my sister with fearless love to the last days of her life.


Ronnie Farley’s latest project can be summed up in one word: Water. She dives deeply into that subject with writings, a new set of photographs, and long walk down NY’s aqueducts, a project to raise awareness about where our water comes from. On a break in her walking schedule, I was able to ask her a few questions about her work, both past and present:

GLB: You have published a number of books that combine your photos and stories. Can you talk a bit about how you get your ideas for these projects?

RF: By 1985, I had been living in the East Village over three years, working at the copy desk and as a photo-stringer at Associated Press, bartender at CBGB’s Hardcore Matinees, and as a bookkeeper for both a crummy upper east side nightclub that became Chippendale’s, and later at Tommy Boy Records. I was photographing the streets and the rich mix of music, art and performance going on concurrent with the AIDs crisis and gentrification. Much of this work is published in Diary of a Pedestrian: A New York Memoir.

In late autumn that year, a friend in my building told me about her lawyer brother defending Navajo people in Arizona against eviction for coal and uranium mining. I began working with the New York City Native community on media outreach for the Navajo and in the summer of 1986, lived out on the reservation for the upcoming eviction deadline, which was eventually canceled for the time being.

The Navajo are a matrilinear society, and so many powerful women and their families were coming through from different tribes to support them. By power I mean the strength of self-possession—of being so grounded in your being/spirit and purpose that you are unstoppable. A power within your body that holds space like a Giant Sequoia. A power whose articulation of words are profoundly poetic, yet razor sharp. A power of love for the Earth so visceral, you are Her embodied.

These women were on the front lines of their own communities—from fighting multinational corporations, to domestic violence and teenage suicide. Through time, I began interviewing and photographing some of them for my first book Women of the Native Struggle: Portraits and Testimony of Native American Women.


Women are the backbone of any society anywhere, and Indigenous peoples are holding up and protecting the natural world everywhere.

Cowgirls: Contemporary Portraits of the American West was a result of a woman seeing my Native images in a frame shop when I came in to pick them up. She said I should do a book on cowgirls and that I should know about her mother who started the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Hereford Texas. The rest came together.

I found the cowgirls to be equally strong and inspiring, but in a different way. They put me to work so I got to fully understand ranching life. I prepared sheep for shearing and participated in a cattle drive. I also followed the rodeo circuits across country: the Women’s Rodeo, the Black Rodeo, the Indian Rodeo. There is even a Gay Rodeo circuit. In both these books, the words belong to the women photographed.

New York Water Towers came about because I was spellbound by their otherworldly presence amid all the glass, mortar and steel.


Once I discovered their purpose I became obsessed with photographing them. My previous book projects made me acutely aware of water issues, so a deeper sense of urgency grew beyond the beauty I was seeing. Many New Yorkers do not know what the water towers are, or that 90% of their water comes from the Catskill Mountains 100 miles north. Returning home from trips out west inspired me to research NYC’s water system and the astronomical engineering feat of aqueducts and dams. Entire communities upstate were eliminated to create reservoirs to support the vertical expansion of New York City, which was only possible because a barrel-maker figured out how to use gravity for water storage, making the humble water tower the critical key component to New York’s water.

GLB: How do these relate to your new project? 

RF: I have continued photographing and interviewing Native women over the past two decades with the sole focus on water. I have also been exploring ways to further the conversation about water and New York’s water supply.

The pipeline protest at Standing Rock came about in 2016 and my experience there further cemented some ideas I was having about water. Watching people in prayer—both young and old, get sprayed with fire-hoses reminded me of Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Police from several states over were driving to North Dakota in their local municipal vehicles, getting paid overtime to suit up robo-cop style to ‘defend’ a multi-national corporation against U.S. citizens practicing their given right to protect their drinking water. The water protectors were rounded up, zip tied (their arms numbered with black sharpies) and placed in large cages at a local Bismarck facility, with little heat. This further sealed my commitment to water.

We are experiencing a serious shift in this country and you have to place yourself on the frontlines, whatever ‘the frontlines’ translates to be for you. For me, taking pictures is not enough. I think water is a great leveler. It is something all life depends upon and it is something that does not recognize politics, gender, race or creed. It is the very core of life itself. I wanted to use water as a bridge between diverse ways of thinking, and I wanted to fully comprehend the properties of water as a living entity—from the molecule to the metaphysical. So I decided to just physically put myself out there. Inspired by the Anishinabe women Nibi Walkers of Minnesota, I decided to talk to people about water by walking. I received a grant from the Catskill Watershed Corporation for my photo documentation/water-walk called Know Your Water(shed). With the intention of raising awareness about New York’s water supply and the supporting communities within the watershed/aqueduct routes, I collected water with a few friends in a copper bucket at New York City’s northernmost reservoir in Schoharie County on April 27, and have been walking it 150 miles down to the city, following the Catskill and Old Croton Aqueduct routes. I’ve been documenting the walk with the intent of producing a book and a short film of imagery stitched together from mountain to city. Employing my previous technique of portraits and quotes from individuals, I have also been taking portraits and interviewing people en route as well as the co-walkers who join me.

With Laura Potter

GLB: Does your visual art feed your writing? In what ways?

RF: The two have always gone hand-in-hand for me, starting with receiving a thesaurus and camera on my 10th birthday. I have been shooting and journaling since then. As a photographer, I have an innate sense of detail and description simply because I often have to assess a situation—the light, composition, mood, all within split-second timing. With photography, I feel the image should be able to stand on its own, with or without text.

But usually the story behind the image is equally compelling. Much of what I have experienced I cannot and would not photograph—the ceremonies of Native communities, the private dramas, the hardships, a lot of death. I write all that down. Words can take you places that images cannot and vice-versa. I think it all depends upon what you are trying to convey and which is the best medium for sharing that message or experience.

I am thrilled with the swell of writers, writing workshops, reading groups and open mic sessions taking place here in Beacon. It is a comfortable place for me to explore these avenues as another form of expression. Through others sharing their knowledge and talent, my world has opened up to the complex language nuances of poetry, prose and memoir, allowing a sense of freedom in sharing my experience. This has given fresh breath to the possibilities within my work—past, present and future. As an artist it is important to always keep evolving and pushing beyond one’s safety zone. There is where the magic happens. I am looking forward to what will result a year from now from the seeds planted today. I have the utmost gratitude towards this community I call home for its unwavering support of my work for over a decade. Beacon truly is a special place.

On Friday, July 12, Ronnie will present Know Your Water(shed) for the first time and share stories from her water-walk, including the history and infrastructure of New York City’s water system, and experiences with Native American communities that have shaped her world view about water and inspired this project.

Beacon Yoga Center, 464 Main Street.

Doors open at 7:30 pm

Event is free and appropriate for all ages

Ronnie Farley is an award-winning fine-art and editorial photographer whose published works include; Women of the Native Struggle: Portraits and Testimony of Native American Women (Crown), Cowgirls: Contemporary Portraits of the American West (Crown/ Thunder’s Mouth Press), Diary of a Pedestrian: A New York Photo Memoir (Third Eye Press), New York Water Towers (KMW studio) and Ghost Plane (Third Eye Press). 

Farley’s books have been critically acclaimed by The New York Times and The Washington Post, and featured on NPR’s 360. Her photography has been exhibited both nationally and internationally, and is included in the collections of the Museum of the City of New York, The National Museum of the American Indian in New York City, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. Her images have also appeared in Rolling Stone, USA Today, Sierra Magazine, Western Horseman and The Sunday Times of London. 

In addition to her own photography, Ronnie Farley’s career includes working for the Associated Press in New York City over a span of twenty years as a photographer, a photo librarian, and a national photo editor. She currently resides in Beacon, New York.

Her books are available at No. 3 Reading Room & Photo Book Works in Beacon and online queries:

The Value of Creative Cross-Pollination: a Conversation with John Blesso

By Linda Pratt

I have worked in children’s book publishing my whole adult life. In watching the careers of some of the most influential creators in our industry, there’s a common threada pushing of boundaries outside of the familiar. For example, Maurice Sendak was discovered by famed editor, Ursula Nordstrom through the window displays he created for FAO Schwartz. After winning the Caldecott for Where the Wild Things Are (still considered the top American children’s book), he wrote more children’s books, but music was also a passion of his, so he also revisited his window dressing days to do set design for a number of operas; a part of his career is the focus of a current exhibit at the Morgan Library. I call this creative cross-pollination, and it is one of tools writers have to view their craft through a different lens to discover surprises that may have been elusive otherwise.

We have someone in our own Get Lit Beacon community who has recently found himself in exactly that space–John Blesso, the founder of the storytelling event Adult Stories. John recently spoke to me about his journey in creative cross-pollination over the last 6 months.


Linda: You’ve been a dedicated writer for years. What does that mean to you?

John: I would first say that I write because I love writing. Writing keeps me balanced and it helps me be a less unruly human. During the past twenty years I transitioned out of the traditional work force and began renovating homes, working my way up to a mixed-use building in Brooklyn. For me, writing/editing and construction/renovation are similar because I either have to create something out of nothing or I am dealt chaos and disorder that I patiently have to order into place. And so every morning I wake up, make coffee and then I write before I bring on the rest of my day. Then whatever happens, I will have written.

Linda: Last fall, you set out to begin storytelling series in Beacon, which has become the successful bi-monthly “Adult Stories with John Blesso”. What part did your writing have in that decision?

John: I’ve consumed storytelling for years and since live storytelling did not exist in Beacon at the time, I decided that I would start Adult Stories. I’d been sharing my stories at readings for a long time, and the feedback was that I was a good reader. So I thought I could just translate my written work to storytelling to cultivate an audience for a memoir I want to eventually publish.

Linda: What surprised you most about this different form of sharing a story?

John: At first, I arrogantly assumed that being a writer who attempted storytelling would be like Reggie Jackson joining a softball league. There are a lot of ways that being a writer helps being a storyteller, but they are two different sports and it has been humbling to begin to learn this different craft. Also, there are ways in which writing detracts from storytelling. For me a real challenge has been to pare down scope and to sound more natural. Prose that looks great on the page can often sound overwrought when telling a story.

Linda: How have the dictates of this new craft informed you as a writer?

John: Maybe the most helpful thing that storytelling has brought to my writing is that it has forced me to study archetypal story structure. An example of this is the “hero’s journey,” in which a protagonist wants something really, really badly, goes off on a quest in search of that thing, and then often gets something else instead—something that might actually be better. Once you understand how Cinderella and Rocky are essentially the same story you can begin to spot archetypal story structure everywhere.


Linda: What specific applications of this do you see for your writing?

John: I’ve always loved big, ambitious novels and memoirs that capture an entire era and my goal was to use my life as a lens to document the broad changes that have happened in the U.S. during the past forty years—really how our social contracts have degraded. I wanted to explore topics like class, race, religion, bullying, masculinity and conformity. All while we enter the Digital Age. So that’s a lot! I’ve also always had James Frey’s fraud in writing A Million Little Pieces in my head, and as such I’ve veered toward a desire to create as full and as honest a picture as possible. But as Colin Quinn once said about standup, “In the specific you find the general.” Truth can be conveyed in the particulars of what is shared. Memoir must present the specific details of our own stories to allow us to connect with readers in a broader way.

Linda: So…what’s the next step for you on your memoir?

John: I recently contracted an editor to critique the draft that I’ve been wrestling with for—yikes!—twelve years. It was painful to have her suggest that I apply archetypal story structure to it. But I knew she was right. I’ve known how to write a good sentence for a long time now and I had always thought a lot about form. Not enough about structure. I think I confused structure with formula. It now feels immature to have wanted to rework the form of what a book is, instead of writing something that is personal and unique within a proven structure. I wish I had figured that out earlier, but maybe if it’s not painful, you’re not growing. So now, I’m applying the archetypal story structure to the arduous task of finding a more manageable arc to tell my story in a way that connects.