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The Kimbilio Interview

The Kimbilio Interview

Here’s a nice interview I did with Hope Wabuke for the Kimbilio website.  While you’re there, also check out the bios of our 2014 Fellows.  I can’t wait to meet them in person.

KCAAF: Where did you grow up?

David Haynes: I grew up outside of St. Louis, in a small community of working class black folks surrounded on all sides by working class white folks.

KCAAF: What was that like? How did it influence you?

David Haynes: Our little “pocket” community was stable and wonderfully nurturing. Same families in the same houses for half a century or more. It’s also true that that kind of insularity can also be stifling at times. This community will be the subject of the novella and stories I’m working on now.

KCAAF: Please tell us some of the books/writers you love.

David Haynes: I read widely and learn from everything I read. This past year, like much of the rest of the literary world, I’ve been celebrating Alice Munro. I’m a writer who thinks structurally, and Munro’s work continues to teach me to think rigorously about the importance of narrative design in storytelling.

Read the rest of the interview here:

An Article About Pedagogy

An Article About Pedagogy

Last year I was interviewed by Catherine Buni for The Writer about culturally responsive pedagogy.  At the end of the article you’ll find a fine and representative listing of craft texts .

What books do you turn to for guidance? And what books are you missing?
By Catherine Buni | Published: January 6, 2014

Last spring, novelist Gish Jen published her first book of nonfiction, a fascinating book calledTiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self. In it, Jen explores how the intersection of culture, of East and West, informs the stories she tells, indeed, how culture informs the stories all writers tell.

Tiger Writing is about writing. Tiger Writing is about art. It is also about the assumptions that underlie the standards by which art is judged. In an interview soon after the book’s release, Jen said, “With globalization in full swing, it’s a good time to take stock of our ideas about art and what ideas about art are in other cultures.”

Working My Way Through This List

Screen Shot 2013-07-27 at 6.35.54 PM

Just attended the best literary event of my life, and, guess what?  It was my f@&%!^& event!  An evaluation from the world’s toughest critic reports that the inaugural Kimbilio retreat was a massive success.  Which is to say that no one is harder on himself than me, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome.

At AWP, A Private Place Just for YOU!



New definition of insanity: thousands of writers in or on their way to or from a giant convention of writers, all connected to each other on social media, all online, all connected to thousands of other writers who aren’t at the conference, instantly reporting on what is or isn’t going at the big conference, instantly commenting on each other’s reports.  I think I just passed myself in the hallway, but I couldn’t tell because I was writing this.

If you can’t beat ‘em….

Wednesday’s midafternoon report:

  1. It is not snowing (yet) in Back Bay
  2. I have already had my week’s quota of food.  (And the other board members ate all the Doritos and so now I have to eat Cheetos for snack)
  3. Suzanne, the postcards of the cover of A STAR IN THE FACE OF THE SKY are on the New River’s table
  4. The convention center still has a phone bank.  (See above.)  Memo to all convention attendees: place your obnoxious cell phone calls here.

3:55 Update: It is snowing BUCKETS in Back Bay.

Maybe Don’t Call Me

SMU Mustangs

The first time I saw the billboard hanging above Central Expressway touting SMU’s Creative Writing program I almost wrecked my car. This was a couple of years back, and it was the surprise of seeing both the boldness of the thing and also the fact that we already had more students than we could handle that set me to driving erratically. The last thing my program needed was mass media.

I circled around to take a closer look and I was massively relieved to see it was an advertisement for coursework in the continuing education program, unaffiliated with the English Department, so disconnected from my own work that I wouldn’t even have known whom to call to register a complaint about the potential confusion, even if it had it occurred to me to do so.

A colleague did suggest I raise a fuss about their using of our name. Here’s a wonderful blog post by Cathy Day that helps explain why I did not.

Having a non-degreed program with a BIG advertising budget on the same campus has almost entirely eliminated the sorts of calls that Cathy complains about in her post. Googling any combination of SMU and Creative Writing brings that other program right to the top of the list, and they must have worked out a deal with the switchboard to direct queries in their direction. I would like to thank them publicly for their great service to undergraduate teaching and learning.

Every now and then, a call does find its way to my desk, and I have the same problem with them that my friend who does counseling has with his clients: people want instant results. They want the five-item checklist that will solve their problems immediately and they want you to provide if for them now.

For free, of course.

And like my friend’s clients, some of these folks have genuine… “issues.” I spent most of the fall semester ignoring a voice mail from a troubled woman who wanted me (or someone) to ghost write or edit or type or… something… her manuscript. The call was as disturbed as she seemed herself to be, and my faulty memory is due to the fact that I couldn’t bear to listen to it more than once.  I let it expire.

Any guilt I might have felt about not calling her back—and, believe me, even the crazy ones set up their pitches to prey on your guilt—was mitigated by the fact that the very nature of her request demonstrated that she hadn’t even taken the time to research me—because if she had, she’d have known I was entirely the wrong person for the job.

The downside of all of this is that it makes me hesitate to pick up the phone myself and ask for…anything.

Writers Guild of Texas


It was my great pleasure to spend this evening with the Writers Guild of Texas discussing the current state of publishing and what’s going on with A Star in the Face of the Sky. I’m thinking that my analysis and forecasts came across a bit on the gloomy side, but I had to be honest.

Then again, these ambitious and committed writers are well aware of the way that developments such as the disappearance of newspaper book reviews have changed the landscape of publishing.

Then again, putting it all together in one presentation is enough to drive anyone to drink.
I also bet them I’d get this blog post up before we all made our ways home. Not quite: I stopped for a sandwich.

Thanks to WGT for their warm welcome. That’s them in the picture.

Yikes: A Multiple Choice Test

Home Alone (film)

Home Alone (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A student whom you do not know, on the recommendation of another student (whose name you do not recognize) sends, for your evaluation and commentary, a piece of writing that is almost certainly the SINGLE MOST EMBARRASSINGLY REVEALING SEXUALLY EXPLICIT paragraph you have ever read in your entire life.  You should:

A.  Disinfect all surfaces and  change the locks immediately

B.  Fix him up on a blind date with a friend

C.  Change professions

D.  Offer writing tips in exchange for photos of said experience

E.  Give him an MFA

Along with your answer, please include a case of brainwash.  I need to remove certain images from my head.

Dinner, Anyone?

So this week I am here:


Up in the Ozark Mountains, in Eureka Springs at the Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow, working on some new fiction. This is the kitchen of my studio:


This is not a joke. Dairy Hollow is the only colony in the country with a studio space designed just for food writers. It’s also the largest studio and since there aren’t any cookbook authors here right now, I got the honors. This is, seriously, the best equipped kitchen I have ever set foot in. There is stuff in these drawers that I don’t know the name of and can’t imagine how it might be used. I think this is a juicer.


Last night I made some microwave popcorn. That will be the extent of my culinary arts.

Back to work on the manuscript.

Five Ideas about Narrative Design

My offices (home and SMU) are littered with scraps of paper from with summary ideas about craft, always in list form.  These were almost always created for one-shot presentations before community writing groups.  These classes  always contain a large numbers of beginners and folks for whom writing is a hobby, if a serious one.   My goal when speaking to these sessions is to leave the writers with something that is easy to take away and that I hope will be likely to push the writing forward in some way.   As a way of clearing my office, I will be peeling these post-its from the computer screen and unpacking them from the complimentary tote bags to be posted here on the blog.

  1. Characters must want or need and want or need deeply
  2. Characters must act
  3. Opposition must be present and palpable
  4. Most action should be in scene and not narrative summary
  5. Unexpected outcomes should change the trajectory of the story

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