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Three Questions: My Writing (Who the Hell am I?)

Updated: Feb 6

Hey, it's me, Shane, your friendly neighborhood Vermont writer! You might be wondering who the hell I am and why am I writing words on the internet. You may be asking why I'm interviewing myself and am I mentally stable. Great questions, all. Read on to find out.

What do you write? What have you written? What do you plan to write?

I got my first dopamine jolt from writing in 4th grade when a writing prompt, well, prompted me to write a story about a boy who became trapped in a grocery store overnight with an inquisitive protoceratops whose presence was neither explained nor explored. Since then, my writing has, admittedly, become more derivative.

I've written three novels, one novella, one linked-story collection, and a few dozen short stories, including a dozen apocalyptic ones. I've also started and abandoned another dozen novels. My writing has shifted from fantasy and science fiction when I was in my early twenties to mysteries and thrillers in my thirties. I've published numerous stories (though the novels have proved elusive) with my first story, an apocalyptic tale called Westward Wind, in 2009. I'm currently working on a gritty neo-noir mystery novel set in a small town in Vermont and have an idea for at least two sequels.

What has been your writing journey and how did it neatly deposit you on top of a mountain in Vermont?

Although I wrote all through high school, I never ventured into any writing workshops until college. My first novel, a 100,000 god-awful epic fantasy mess I called Agaroth, I finished in the summer after my freshman year. I was fortunate to have a generous and intrepid grad student named Dani who was my freshman year writing seminar professor. I told her about Agaroth and she read far more of the book than would have met the threshold for politeness. Her feedback and guidance were exactly what I didn't know I needed and I couldn't possibly begin to thank her for all she did to help me. The following year, I finished a much better novel about the first war to be fought in outer space, Battlegroup Epsilon. It was about this time, while I was majoring in Astronomy, that I had the epiphany that I was much more interested in writing fiction about outer space than learning the complex mathematics behind the cosmos. I ended up taking six writing workshops in college, switched to English as a major, and earned a concentration (the poor man's minor) in creative writing.

After college, I moved in with my patient girlfriend, Chloe, who was halfway toward earning her JD at Vermont Law School. I began writing more and even started submitting to publications. This was when I first published Westward Wind in the illustrious and long defunct Sex and Murder magazine, though I don't think my story can take credit for the publication's fatal blow. I began submitting more and got more acceptances. I decided I wanted to go to graduate school to get my MFA in Creative Writing, just like my college mentor, Dani, had done.

Over two years, I applied to 31 full time in-person MFA programs and was sweepingly rejected by all but one, a school in the southwest that was so immersively swarmed by a faculty sex scandal that applications were stymied, leading to me being momentarily waitlisted before being mercifully rejected. To be fair to myself, this was in the early 2010's when, amidst the Great Recession, graduate school was all the rage. One program to which I applied received more than 2,000 applicants to fill 12 spots. Finally, at the suggestion of another writing friend, I applied to a low residency program at the University of Southern Maine, Stonecoast. I was accepted, reluctantly took the offer, and am incredibly grateful I did.

At Stonecoast, I was able to learn from numerous brilliant and charismatic professors. My writing was shredded in workshop, I honed my craft, read more than I had ever pushed myself to read in the past, and most importantly of all, met and befriended an amazing cohort of kind writers. Ten years after graduating, we still meet up for a week every summer in Maine to workshop our fiction, talk about writing, eat lobster rolls, and enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage or two. Here's a picture of us completely sober doing sober-people things.

After graduation, Chloe (now my wife) and I did ill-advised things that married people often do like get careers, buy houses, and have children. We moved all over Vermont before Chloe became the executive director of a non-profit and we moved to a beautiful home on top of a mountain. Now, with our kids a little older, I'm getting back on track with my writing career. I've published two stories recently and just received an acceptance for a third last week. I'm also shopping my mystery novel so if you know a guy (makes hand telephone gesture).

Who are your favorite writers? Favorite books?

One thing I forgot to mention is that in college, I spent 18 months in Army ROTC and nearly contracted as a Second Lieutenant. It was a surreal and formative experience which left me vulnerable to the influence of some classic war writers like Hemingway and Tim O'Brien whose respective novels Farewell to Arms and The Things They Carried left me sobbing and undulating under the crushing weight of the cruelty of the human experience (which is how I know I really like a book).

My other favorite authors and books are pretty varied. A shortlist would include Alex White (Alien: Cold Forge & Alien: Into Charybdis), Sarah Braunstein (The Sweet Relief of Missing Children), Sioban Fallon (You Know When the Men are Gone), Lev Grossman (The Magicians series), Cormac McCarthy (The Road), Bret Anthony Johnston (Remember Me Like This), Lorrie Moore (Self Help), Denis Johnson (Jesus' Son), Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods), Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch), Kevin Powers (The Yellow Birds & Letter Composed During a Lull in the Fighting), Alexander Chee (Edinburgh), Don DeLillo (White Noise), Johnathan Letham (As She Climbed Across the Table), Brandon Courtney (Rooms for Rent in the Burning City), Tim Seibles (Fast Animal), Chloe Viner (Dandelions and Defiance & What the Rain Said Last Night), Ernest Cline (Ready Player One), Johann Hari (Chasing the Scream), Franklin Horton (Borrowed World Series), Erich Maria Remarque (All Quiet on the Eastern Front), Looking for Alaska (John Green), Michael Witwer (Empire of Imagination), Michael A Stackpole (Dragon Crown series), Gillian Flynn (Dark Places & Gone Girl), and George Orwell (1984).

That list didn't end up being as short as I'd thought. Shrugs.

Anyway, that's me. Okay bye.

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