JOSEPH HAGGERTY – Hero – Vice Detective – Child Rescuer – Author – Poet – Friend

Joseph B. Haggerty Sr. Author of the novels: Shame: The Story of a Pimp and An Ocean in the Desert Contributor to the PSWA anthology: Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides Award-winning poet, writer, and lecturer on the sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution and pornography.

I’m Joseph B. Haggerty Sr. a retired vice detective and academy instructor from the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C. (35 yrs).  I was a Senior Special Agent in Investigations with the Office of the Inspector General for Amtrak (6 yrs).  In 2009, I received an award, Heroes of the Heart, from the organization Children of the Nights in California and was recognized as one of the top ten law enforcement officers in the country for rescuing children from the street.  I was President of the Writers League of Washington for nine years.  I have been a member of the Public Safety Writers Association since 2010. I have a self-published novel, Shame: The Story of a Pimp, which I wrote based on my experiences investigating child predators in prostitution. I was honored to have 3 short stories and 2 poems published in the PSWA anthology, Felons, Flames and Ambulance Rides. I also have another book from Oak Tree Press, titled, An Ocean in the Desert. A number of my poems have been published in my FOP lodge newspaper and Tears on the Walls was recorded on a CD titled Heroes Unsung.  I am married with six children, eleven grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.

The first book I wrote was because of the way, and movies and television portray prostitution. They make it look glamorous, safe, and profitable. Most serial killers either start out killing prostitutes or easily convert to killing them. For one good reason, they are easy targets. Pimps are the real problem on the street. They are the real criminals. Prostitutes are the pawns used to make the pimps money and are sacrificed just as easily. I wanted to write about what the street is really like. As a vice detective specializing in going after the pimps in Washington, D.C.( excluding Congress), I learned a great deal about how the pimps do their business and how they get their victims and hold them. My book, Shame, The Story of a Pimp, is just that. It’s a story of a pimp from birth to death, how he learned about pimping and became a pimp. It’s a story of sex and violence because that’s the story of prostitution. It’s a story of the sexual exploitation of children by pimps. It’s a story of the pimp world and pimp law. I interviewed over 5000 prostitutes who worked the D.C. streets in my over twenty-seven years on the street and also interviewed hundreds of pimps. Some of my cases are intertwined in the book. I changed names and locations, but the events are the same.

I’ve also written a book, An Ocean in the Desert, where two private investigators specialize in finding missing children. If they find the child has been a victim of a sexual predator, they offer the child’s family an additional service to guarantee their child will never return to that predator.

I’m in the process of writing a third book, tentatively named Craig’s Follies, which is about a male prostitute who became a professional informant for several police departments across the country as well as Washington, D.C.

A publisher has agreed to publish a book of my short stories about the street and my life as an investigator.

As a Public Safety Writers Association(PSWA) member, I have learned a great deal about writing and other aspects of law enforcement, medical situations, and firefighting. Through the list/serv and our conferences, I have had numerous questions, answers, and ideas for handling plots, characters, setting, point of view, and numerous ways to kill people. PSWA has given me confidence and encouragement for the submissions I have made to the various writing contests for which I have won many awards. I would recommend PSWA to anyone thinking about writing or who has been fortunate enough to have a book, short story, or poetry published.

I wrote my first book in less than a year, finishing it in 1987. I wrote it longhand on a legal pad. It took another couple of years to have it put on a computer disc. After finally having it on my computer and another couple of years of editing, I took it to a literary agent. The agent turned me down, saying the book needed too much editing. I went to another literary agent and got the same answer. I did more editing. I couldn’t afford a real editor as the book was over 500 pages. I went to a third agent, who said I had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting published as an unknown writer. In 1999, I joined a writers group, The Writers’ League of Washington. Through their encouragement and confidence-building, I decided to go the route of self-publishing, and my book, Shame, The Story of a Pimp, was published in 2008.

In Shame, I have several subplots. There are three main subplots. Shame’s mother gets involved with a gambling pimp who rips off the mob. I had one of Same’s women kidnapped by another pimp, and a rescue attempt is made. The third is a policewoman who goes undercover as a prostitute to discover the truth about a murdered friend. One other thing, I’m not sure you could call them subplots, but I didn’t want to just concentrate on Shame’s women. A number of other women worked the street, and the reader will read about them. I wanted the reader to know how they got to where they were. I wanted the reader to see the whole street.

With my first two books, I wrote as a pantser, but with Craig’s Follies, I am outlining. I am also writing a book with another member of PSWA, and we’re outlining with that book.

I have to say that my favorite books are the ones that inspired me to write. The first is The Stand, by Stephen King. I’m not a big Stephen King fan, but the characters he created in The Stand are extraordinary. I am a slow reader, and The Stand is a big book, which was a challenge to me. Still, the characters he created were the driving motivation to read the book in its entirety. The second book that inspired me was Cathedral by Nelson Demille. This book was about Irish terrorists that take over St. Patrick’s cathedral in New York. This was one of those books you can’t put down. The action was non-stop, with great characters and a great story.

You can reach me at: gudgerray@aol.com

 

7 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    I echo the praise put forth in these other comments. Joe is a true hero who has worked his entire life to protect the innocents and bring the predators to justice. He is an example of the finest among us, and I am proud that he considers me a friend. His books are gritty and real, but they’re well worth reading. Stay strong, Joe.

    Reply
  2. Wanda Dean

    Joseph, first of all, Thank You for what you have done to save Children from the streets. And congratulations for following your passion of writing and publishing your own book! Keep up your work of reaching out to those less fortunate .

    Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I truly appreciate and I am humbled by these wonderful comments. It was easy to see what the real problem was in prostitution, the sexual exploitation of women and children by pimps at different levels. I saw these victims as victims not criminals and although I had a very hard time getting the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia to prosecute these predator cases, I continued to do my job. Thankfully, today many more prosecutions are occurring and many states are recognizing these women and children as victims. I do not consider myself as a hero, just a cop who recognized a problem and decided to do something about it. The real heroes are people like Dr. Lois Lee who founded Children of the Night. Look up her organization and what they have done. They not only rescue children they empower them, educate them and provide shelter for them and they appreciate any support they can get.

    Reply
  4. Mar Preston

    I am glad there are investigators like you, Joe.

    Reply
  5. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ve read both of Joe’s books–real and eye-opening. Joe is one of my favorite friends from PSWA. A great guy with a heart of gold, an inspirational career, and a great sense of humor.
    Great article.

    Reply
  6. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview, Joe. And my respect and admiration for all you’ve done and continue to do! You’re one of the best of us humans.

    Reply
  7. Nanci Rathbun

    Thank you for your life of service to the vulnerable ones, Joseph, and to your continued efforts to make us aware of the reality of sexual violence and exploitation. It can’t have been easy to do that kind of work. You are a true hero.
    Nanci

    Reply

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MARK EDWARD LANGLEY – Western Mystery Author

The title of his latest release is When Silence Screams.

Mark Edward Langley is an award-winning author of the Arthur Nakai Mystery Series, including Death Waits in the Dark which won both as a finalist in the American Book Fest Awards in 2020 and winning the coveted Feathered Quill Book Award for best mystery of 2021. He is currently writing his fourth novel of the series, Broken Glass, due out August 2022. He and his wife, Barbara, divide their time between the home in Indiana and New Mexico.

Award-winning author James Wade had this to say about it: “Langley’s third installment of his Arthur Nakai Mysteries is the most thrilling yet. The characters are fully formed, and the danger is real and urgent. Langley has an unmatched feel for his New Mexico setting, both the landscape and the culture. A master of dialogue, Langley lets the banter flow freely and allows the mystery to drive the story from the opening pages to its heart-pounding conclusion. There’s not a better detective writer in the American West.”

And these best-selling authors had this praise for my Arthur Nakai series: Anne Hillerman said this: Death Waits in the Dark tells a gritty story of betrayal, deceit, and danger through the eyes of Navajo protagonist Arthur Nakai. The tightly written noir plot moves from scene to scene like a thriller, building suspense on every page.

William Kent Kreuger said this: With Death Waits in the Dark, Mark Edward Langley offers readers an utterly compelling portrait of human beings struggling to deal with the aftermath of great trauma. Langley writes about the great Southwest with a loving eye for detail that fans of Tony and Anne Hillerman will readily embrace. I was utterly captured by this fine second novel in the Arthur Nakai series. Along with those who are already fans, I can only hope that there will be many more stories to come. I recommend this book with a full heart.

Craig Johnson said this: “Combining the gait of a fine horse, the comfort of your favorite Indian blanket, and the ease of a well-worn saddle, Mark Edward Langley’s Path of the Dead is one heck of a debut novel!”

Do you write in more than one genre? I only write in the mystery genre. I have always loved reading them and watching them because I am always intrigued and try to figure them out. The best ones are the ones that surprise me!

What brought you to writing? I fell in love with it when I began reading the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker. Then, when I discovered Tony Hillerman, I kept telling myself, “you can do this! You need to do this! You have stories to tell!”

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write in my office. It gives me the privacy I need, and I am surrounded by inspiration. Plus, I have an extensive cd library and often play Native American flute music … and the occasional Pink Floyd album to help my mood.

Tell us about your writing process: My process consists of coming up with a title and composing a story around it. Then I do what seems to be reams of research, categorize it into a manageable pile, create new characters and begin mapping out each chapter. For the next book–Broken Glass–I contacted the Navajo Nation, Albuquerque, and Phoenix police departments and obtained closed case files concerning the main crux of the story my protagonist Arthur Nakai will move through. It’s wonderful to see how police procedures move things along in an organized fashion.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Hands down–the research. Sometimes it is daunting, but it is always worth it. Even if I search out one fact for one sentence, it makes the story that much more authentic.

What are you currently working on? I am three chapters into Broken Glass (book four) and recently had an idea based on a title (Midnight Harvest) for book five and wrote the first chapter of that. I have also begun creating another series set in another part of New Mexico featuring another wonderful character. When it comes to fruition, I will let my Members Only subscribers of my website know first.

Has an association membership helped you or your writing? I belong to four associations, but the most help I have received has come from Western Writers of America. ITW has done very well helping to promote my work, and I look forward to a long relationship with them all.

Who’s your favorite author? I would have to say it is Robert B. Parker. Spenser is a wonderfully written character. I loved his books from the moment I picked up my first copy. Working in a bookstore at the time gave me a wide array of authors to choose from–including Tony Hillerman, Mickey Spillane, and John D. MacDonald (whom I share a birth date with–July 24th.)

How long did it take you to write your first book? I heard someone say once that “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans.” That is absolutely true. Path of the Dead took 20 years before it saw the light of day. Once I retired at the end of 2016, I focused on my writing. I think it’s worked out pretty well.

How long to get it published? I was lucky. I first got an agent. He submitted my manuscript to six publishers, and in two weeks, I had a two-book deal.
How do you come up with character names? I keep a list of Navajo and other names to choose from. I also have several other pathways and often combine first and last names to create a character.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I would say that they run the show. No matter how I map out a chapter, my characters seem to have their own minds and their own will, especially during dialogue scenes. They have lives, they have ideals, they have thoughts that lead me off my pre-written trail and down a new, unseen path.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Well, I use a lot of personal experience and do a lot of research as well. You have to find a way into their minds. In my case, it’s Arthur’s wife Sharon and her thoughts on pregnancy, depression, and PTSD, all things I have no experience with.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No. They do not. They always amaze me with their individuality and loyalty.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? Yes, I have subplots. Often they are little stories inside the main story that gives the reader an authentic feel of the area. In book three, When Silence Screams, the two subplots have a more prevalent connection.
How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? By making something unexpected happen. Because fiction, like life, moves forward when conflict occurs.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? Stephen King. I just can’t read him. My wife can, but I just can’t get into him. I love watching films based on his work–my favorite being The Dark Half.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Like most writers, I pull from friends, school buddies, and the like. And sometimes, it’s a conglomeration of several people.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I outline. I like to know where I’m going and how I’m getting there.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? 98% of the locations in my novels are real. I have driven the hard packed dirt roads, the open highways and visited the small towns and places I write about. I feel I have to do that in order to give the reader an authentic experience so they can feel and smell and taste and see everything that New Mexico and the Navajo Reservation holds.

What is the best book you ever read? Robert B. Parker’s Crimson Joy and Finding Rachel Wallace. I actually read both twice.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? Hopefully, my dream will continue to come true, and I can enjoy writing and make a good living at it. I figure I have maybe 15 to 20 years left to be creative and want to enjoy those years with my wife with what success will offer me.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Never let go of YOUR dream. No one else will ever understand because it is not THEIR dream. They may find every reason they can to dismiss you and alter your mindset and resolve, but don’t let them. YOU have the vision … don’t give them the power to change it.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If anyone wants to learn more about me and my books, they can visit markedwardlangley.com and join Members Only for exclusive content access. From my website, you can navigate to all my social media pages, watch book trailers, listen to my podcast and radio interviews, and much more!
https://www.facebook.com/ArthurNakaiShadowWolf
https://www.instagram.com/markedwardlangley/
https://www.linkedin.com/in/mark-edward-langley-68443219/
https://markedwardlangley.com/

5 Comments

  1. Marilyn Meredith

    Sounds like I better get started reading this series.

    Reply
  2. Madeline Gornell

    Great interview, and love the advice, “Never let go of your dread!”

    Reply
  3. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    Hopefully Mark you can confirm whether I bought a signed copy of WHEN SILENCE SCREAMS. I know that may sound strange, but I knew the minute I saw the story line that I wanted that book. You have accomplished so much and I only hope I can too. This was a great interview and I hope you can make next years conference PSWA.

    Reply
  4. Michael A, Black

    Mark’s a good friend and an excellent writer. If you haven’t checked out his Arthur Nakai series, do yourself a favor and grab one. You won’t regret it. Best of luck to you, Mark. Keep it going.

    Reply
  5. Danny R. Smith

    Great interview. Congratulations, Mark. Those are some heavyweight endorsements too!

    Reply

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MARGARET MIZUSHIMA – Award Winning and Internationally Recognized Author

Margaret Mizushima writes the award-winning and internationally published Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries. She serves as president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and was elected the 2019 Writer of the Year by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She lives in Colorado on a small ranch with her veterinarian husband, where they raised two daughters and a multitude of animals.

Margaret’s the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries, are police procedurals set in a small town in the Colorado high country. Married forty years to a veterinarian, Margaret enjoys setting up puzzling crimes for her protagonists to investigate—Deputy Mattie Cobb, her K-9 partner Robo, and veterinarian Cole Walker. Together these three heroes battle murder and mayhem in the fictional town of Timber Creek, Colorado.

Margaret’s seventh book in the series is now available. In Striking Range, the past and present collide when Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo are torn between investigating her father’s cold case and the death of a young mother whose body is found near Timber Creek. As a deadly storm batters the area, taking its toll on the investigative team, Mattie and Robo search for the woman’s missing infant, hoping to find the baby before it’s too late. But Mattie soon realizes that a killer, who may be the mastermind behind it all, is within their midst, ready to strike again.

What brought you to writing?  It seems like I wanted to write and publish a book for most of my life, but I needed to help my husband earn a living and raise our two daughters first. As soon as I retired from my first career as a speech pathologist, I began studying the art and craft of novel writing. I wrote several books before trying my hand at mystery writing. My first book in the series, Killing Trail, was picked up by Crooked Lane Books (New York) and released in 2015. We’ve been launching a new book together every year since.

Where do you write? Tell us about your writing process.  After my daughters moved away from home, I converted an upstairs bedroom into my office. I’m a great believer in having one’s own writing space. When I’m writing the first draft of a new book, I try to go upstairs and get started by 8:00 a.m. each morning. I scan my email, answer any that need immediate attention, and then switch from business mode to creative.

I usually light a candle and set a timer for forty-five minutes. During that time, I let nothing interrupt me. (Distractions in the form of social media and phone calls are all around, but unless from family, I do my best to ignore them.) After forty-five minutes, I take a break for fifteen, get up and stretch, answer any messages I need to, and then sit back down for another forty-five-minute stretch. Called the Pomodora Method, these short sprints of giving full concentration to a task help hold my attention best. Unless I have an appointment or something scheduled, I keep up these cycles until I’ve reached 1000 words. Using this method, I can usually write the first draft of a book in about four months. Then I revise several times before sending it to my editor.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? Figuring out the plot. In every episode, I need to weave in my character arcs, a homicide or two, a social issue that I want to spotlight, work that my veterinarian character has to do that helps solve the crime, work that my K-9 character Robo has to do to turn up clues and work that my K-9 handler Mattie has to do. I love developing the premise of each book, choosing the theme, and working out the series arcs for my characters. It’s the nitty-gritty details of the puzzle, the clues, and the red herrings that are hard to wrestle into submission.

We hear about strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? I think having characters strike off on their own is part of the challenge, but it’s also part of the fun. When one of my characters takes off in a direction I didn’t plan, I have to pause and ask if this direction will serve my overall plot or is it going to lead me to a dead end. Sometimes I’m surprised when a character finds a clue I didn’t know was there. For example, in the second episode in the series, Stalking Ground, the detective and Mattie find the victim’s diary under the passenger seat of her car. I had no plan for that and was as surprised as they were. But what a happy turn it took in the story, and what a wonderful vehicle for giving my investigative team more evidence to work with!

How do you come up with character names? I give my series a western flavor, and so I tried to come up with names that are more common here in the west. I actually listen to the names of participants in rodeos and keep a running list. Cole Walker, the veterinarian in the book, has a name that resonates with the west. Mattie, my K-9 handler, was the name of one of my classmates. (We attended school in a small town in Colorado.) And the dog’s name, Robo? His was inspired by an actual K-9 partner that one of my consultants had when she worked in law enforcement in Bellingham, WA. Her Robo was a wonder dog, just like the Robo in my books. He could do it all, from tracking a fugitive or a missing person to finding narcotics or gunpowder to finding evidence after a crime. The stories I heard about the real Robo inspired the skillset that my fictional Robo demonstrates in every book.

What are you working on next? I’m working on the eighth book in the series, as yet unnamed. It will launch in the spring of 2023. I invite readers to get to know Mattie, Robo, and Cole—each mystery stands alone, but if you want the full effect of the character’s stories, start with Killing Trail.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog today, George. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about my writing process and the Timber Creek K-9 Mysteries.

You can find Margaret at:

Website: https://margaretmizushima.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMargaretMizushima
Twitter: https://twitter.com/margmizu
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/margmizu/

11 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Great meeting you. Margaret! I’m unfamiliar with your series, but now very interested. Much success! I need some of your discipline(smile)

    Reply
  2. John Schembra

    Sounds like an interesting series. I will give it a try! You have a very disciplined writing process. Mine’s more chaotic. Congrats on you writing success!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks for checking in with us today, John, and thanks also for giving my books a try. I hope you like them. I have to be disciplined to get anything finished! But right now, my life is so chaotic that I’m having trouble getting started on book eight. Must put my nose to the grindstone soon. Take care and hope all is well with you and your writing process!

      Reply
  3. Donnell Ann Bell

    Love this author, George. thank you for spotlighting her. Interesting processes, Margaret. Can’t wait to read your latest!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks, Donnell! So nice of you to stop by, and thanks for reading the books!

      Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    This sounds like a fascinating series. Your disciplined approach is obviously serving you well. Best of luck to you with your writing. I’m looking forward to checking out your books.

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much for your comment, Michael. I’m afraid I have to be disciplined or I will never get things done. 🙂 I hope you enjoy the books. Take care and happy reading!

      Reply
  5. vicki batman

    So nice to get to know you and your books.

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Vicki, thanks so much for visiting George’s blog today. I appreciate your comment and hope you’re finding time to read this summer. It’s hard to believe that fall is just around the corner! Take care.

      Reply
  6. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Congratulations Margaret! It’s such an awesome series with fantastic characters!

    Reply
    • Margaret Mizushima

      Thanks so much, Rhonda! I appreciate you and your support so much! Hope to see you at SinC-Colorado book club this Saturday to hear you talk about your book, Abby’s Redemption. Hugs!

      Reply

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JON DAVIS – Educator – Mentor – Poet Laureate

I met Jon when I inquired about the low-rez MFA program at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). Five days later, he had me admitted. During the program he wasn’t just the director, he was a mentor and friend to every student. When I had a serious medical issue that prevented my attendance one semester, he created a remote program that allowed me to complete my requirements and graduate with my cohort.

Jon, I can never thank you enough for your compassion and friendship. Yôotva  – Thank You, George

My name is Jon Davis. I was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and grew up in the nearby town of Orange. After graduating high school, I worked for eight years, primarily as a mason and a warehouse manager, before attending the University of Bridgeport. I went on to earn my MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Montana. I taught for 30 years, 28 of them at the Institute of American Indian Arts. In 2013, I founded the IAIA low residency MFA in Creative Writing, which I directed until my retirement in 2018. From 2012-2014, I served as the City of Santa Fe’s fourth Poet Laureate. I have published seven books of poetry, one book of poetry in translation, and six chapbooks of poetry.

My new book of poetry, Above the Bejeweled City, will be available from Grid Books on September 15. Here’s the official book description:

In his seventh poetry collection, Jon Davis exhibits the range and mastery that is the result of fifty years of study, teaching, and practice. Above the Bejeweled City opens and closes with homages to Federico Garcia Lorca’s dream-struck ballad “Romance Sonámbulo.” In between, he inhabits what the philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls the “inexplicable existence” that marks our passage here on Earth.

Part absurdist, part satirist, part tender correspondent, Davis writes in the slipstream of writers like Joyce, Beckett, Parra, and Plath. In an age that calls out for hopeful verse, Above the Bejeweled City offers, instead, a treatise on defeat and despair—and on how letting go is a way of holding on.

I think of it is as the third book in a tryptich with my previous two books, Improbable Creatures and An Amiable Reception for the Acrobat. All three books were written more or less simultaneously.

Do you write in more than one genre? I write in many genres—poetry and short fiction primarily, but I’ve also written screenplays, plays, creative nonfiction, literary criticism, satire, and songs. My first published writings were record reviews, and for a while, I was the music critic for a weekly newspaper in New Haven, Connecticut. I also write poetry and perform as Chuck Calabreze, an alter-ego of sorts that I developed in the 90s.

What brought you to writing? I was always an avid reader, and, for some reason, when I was in third grade, I suddenly wrote a 23 page story, the hero of which was a young Navajo man who had stumbled across a bag of money—I think some thieves had stashed it. The story followed him as he was pursued by both the authorities and the original thieves. I didn’t know any Navajo names (I was an eight year old living in Orange, Connecticut), so I borrowed an exotic-sounding name I’d seen in the newspapers for my hero: Tse (borrowed from Mao Tse Tung!). Four years later, I began writing imitations of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. (I read both when I was 11 years old.) I’d wander the woods with a journal (I mean, the notebook actually said “Journal” on the cover!), and I’d scribble down my romanticized observations of nature. I still have one of those journals. Trust me, nobody is going to see it.

But I didn’t think of writing as something one devotes oneself to until my 7th grade English teacher talked about James Joyce and his notion of the literary “epiphany. ” I think she defined it as the writer “seeing into the heart of things.” I remember thinking, “I want to do that!” The same teacher also made me stay inside during recess when I didn’t complete my assignments on time (which was most of the time). As “punishment,” she’d make me memorize poems. I remember being given John Donne’s “No Man is an Island.” I thought it was the best punishment ever.

It took a while before I came to poetry myself, though. What finally brought me to writing poetry was a dirt bike accident when I was 18. I was riding alone on a tight dirt track I’d carved out of the woods. It was the first cold morning in November, 16 degrees. I slid hard into the berm on the first turn, but instead of sliding around the turn, the tires bounced off the frozen berm. The bike stopped dead and fell on my calf muscle. I pulled the bike upright, got back on, and rode home. I figured I’d torn my calf muscle (two weeks later, I went to the doctor, and he confirmed my diagnosis), so I hopped up the stairs, sat at my desk, thought, What am I going to do now?—and started writing poems.

I taught myself by reading the generation ahead of mine, so Richard Hugo, Norman Dubie, and others were my teachers at first. In 1977, I wrote a letter and sent some poems to a poet named Dick Allen, whose book I’d found in the mall book store and who taught nearby, at the University of Bridgeport. Dick loved what I’d sent him and invited me to take any course I wanted. The one that fit into my schedule was a 300 level creative writing class. At the first full class, four of my poems appeared at the end of the mimeographed handout. After he’d led lively discussions of the other work on the handout, my poems came up for discussion. Nobody raised a hand, nobody spoke. Dick let the silence continue. He passed the time fiddling with his glasses, poking through papers in his briefcase. Meanwhile, I was thinking, I’m in the wrong class, I need to give up this crazy idea of writing poems, etc. Finally, he stood up and addressed the dumbfounded class. “These poems,” he said, “are instantly publishable in any journal in America.” He went on to tell the class what he knew about me—I was a construction worker, I’d taught myself to write these poems—and the various virtues he saw in my poems, then class ended. I talked to him briefly after class, then drove the twenty minutes home in my battered 68 Buick, sobbing all the way.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write wherever I am and write longhand, on a computer, or on my iPhone. Sometimes I record on my iPhone. When I’m writing as Chuck Calabreze, I shout and growl lines and either record them or scribble them down immediately after growling them. I often drive with a notebook beside me and scribble poems (mostly without looking) across the pages. I keep a notebook beside my bed for those times I wake up having dreamt part of a poem. I can write poems no matter what’s happening around me. I’ve written poems in emails and group chats, on Facebook messenger, and in text messages.

Tell us about your writing process. As you might surmise from my previous answer, I don’t have a writing process. In fact, I don’t believe in the idea of a “creative process”; experience tells me poems and stories happen in thousands of different ways. So my approach is to stay open and alert and attentive to the wild world and to my own wildly associative brain. I write notes everywhere, let every glimpse or whimsy, every hurt or big idea, every cluster of words or silly thought, every fleeting buzz or bing into my awareness. I’m apt to drop everything and start writing. Or at the very least, text myself a title, a line, a part of a poem or story or song. I have this idea that the composition / revision divide (process?) is an artificial distinction that was produced by writing workshops. For me, it’s all composition—one fluid (okay, sometimes not so fluid) movement. I suspect that relying on a process will get you processed poems, not quite real poems the way processed “cheese food” isn’t quite cheese.

What are you currently working on? Even before I’d completed Above the Bejeweled City, I was deep into the next collection—by deep, I mean deep for a poet: I have about 30 pages. Some of these poems will appear in State of the Union, a chapbook coming from Finishing Line Press in 2022.

Who’s currently your favorite author? I am currently reading The Glass Constellation by one of my favorite poets, Arthur Sze, whose innovations, developed over fifty years of poetic practice, reveal an entire worldview.

Do you have any advice for new writers? For poets: Imagine what the perfect poem looks like for you, then spend your life trying to write it. Ignore fashion. Ignore equally failure and success.

How do our readers contact you?

My web site: jondavispoet.com
My email: jdavissimo@me.com
Chuck Calabreze’s blog: voydofcourse.blogspot.com
Grid Books:https://www.grid-books.org/shop/above-the-bejeweled-city
Copper Canyon Press: https://www.coppercanyonpress.org/books/preliminary-report-by-jon-davis/

4 Comments

  1. Madeline Gornell

    Love your cover. And so agree, “ignore fashion!” Good to meet you, Jon!

    Reply
  2. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I too am a poet, certainly not on the your prestigious level, but it would seem to me based on this interview that most of your poems are prose rather than rhyme. Do you believe writing prose is more likely to be published than rhyme poetry. Mine is primarily rhyme and I am looking to find a publisher. As a retired cop, I’ve written most of my poems about the street and police work or the sexual exploitation of women and children in prostitution. I would be very interested in your opinion of my work and if you would allow me, I could send some of it to you. Thank you for sharing your story and thank you George for providing an opportunity for him to share his story.

    Reply
  3. Thonie Hevron

    I had no intention of reading this interview. After all, I don’t get most poetry. But George’s recommendation and the support you gave him when he needed it convinced me. Your words made me a believer. I particularly like your answer about your “writing process.” I’ll be looking for your work. Thank you for sharing this, George!

    Reply
  4. Michael A. Black

    Yours is an inspiring story indeed. Your passion for writing is admirable and I have no doubt that one day you will write that perfect poem. Good luck.

    Reply

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