November 2008 Interview
Q: Welcome! Please tell us, how did you get started as a writer?
MSD: I started by reading a book my father gave my mother when they were
first married entitled, ďA Treasury of the Familiar.Ē I was about eight
years old when I first started reading it. I was particularly drawn to
Tennyson because of the rhyme and the strong lines. The name of our
companyís self-publishing label
(Pure Heart Press) was actually taken
from a stanza in ďSir Galahad.
I was also drawn to
and several others that were heavy on rhyme.
Consequently, when I first started writing my own work, I was writing bad
quatrains. Nonetheless, I was convinced that they were wonderful and
deserved page space and at the age of 12 I was in the library researching
The Writersí Market
. By age 14, I had taped rejection notices
to one wall of my bedroom.
At 15, I started taking it seriously by taking Creative Writing classes
in high school. Iíd won a couple of awards by then for short stories,
but I want to write poetry. Before I turned 16, I had a handful of acceptances.
Q: Have you always been interested in writing?
MSD: Yes. Iíve done a variety of things to pay the bills, but Iíve always written.
Q: How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
MSD: Reading is the easy answer, but I think you have to get out and involve
yourself in the world to really have something to write about. I travel.
I talk to strangers. My wife thinks Iím nuts because Iíll strike up a
conversation with just about anyone, just about anywhere. The grocery
store is a great place to meet charactersóespecially when youíre out of town.
I keep folders of work in progress that Iíll review from time to time and I
keep a notebook to jot down images, phrasesóthings that are inspired by what
encounters, events, etc.
Q: Do you have any projects youíd like to tell us about?
MSD: Not really.
Main Street Rag Publishing Company
is becoming better known
and Iím the guy in charge. I sometimes find myself and my work being judged
on that basis and although itís nice to get published, itís more important
(to me) that my work be accepted on the basis of what is rather than the fact
I wrote it. As a result, I use a lot of pseudonyms. Iíve been published under
nearly a dozen names and if I tell you my projects, it could be a giveaway
one or more of those names.
Q: What is something you wish other creative artists understood?
MSD: Time is the most valuable asset any of us have. If someone stole
everything I ownóif the stock market completely crashed todayóI could
go out tomorrow and start rebuilding. But waste one minute of my time
and youíve taken away something I can never replace.
This is the primary reason why Iím so against simultaneous submissions.
If I invest the time to consider someoneís work, respond in a matter of
3-6 weeksófaster than mostóand when I tell the author that I want to
publish a particular piece they tell me, ďSorry, someone else has
already taken that piece,Ē wellÖ our guides at MSR are clear. This
person just wasted my time because he/she disregarded my guidelines.
Iíll never consider anything from that person again.
I realize that sounds hard-lineóand it isóbut I think writers and
publishers need to respect each other equally. If someone doesnít
respect me enough to follow my guides, then Iím not going to invest
any more of my most valuable asset (time) in reading their work.
There are over 10,000 small press print options out there. Many
of them have volunteer staffs or they do this as a hobby. They
donít have a lot of skin in the game. I do this for a living. I
have people I pay for their time. Time matters. Copyright laws matter.
Q: What are some of the challenges and obstacles you faced during your career?
MSD: Paying the bills mostly. They donít pay poets to ďpoeĒ and Iím not
part of academia. Iíve done things for a living that would make some folks
ill, things that would scare others, things that I enjoyed that didnít
pay enough to sustain me and things that paid well but made me a
less-than-pleasant person to be around. You gotta roll with the punches.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of your career?
MSD: Seeing the faces of people I publish when they receive copies of their
books. Reading the feedback from them or from readers of our magazine.
Q: What inspires you?
MSD: Iím easily inspired. Almost any stimulus creates an image for me around
which I can build a story. Iím also a news junky. As Iím writing this, Iíve
Morning Cup of Joe
on over my shoulder. When Iím not listening
to that, Iím listening to
as I work. I tend to see or hear things and
follow them to a conclusion; projecting out into the future. That often
becomes the basis of a column or poem.
Q: How do you manage your time when you are working on more than one project?
MSD: Iíve never believed in forced writing. I know it works for some people,
but it doesnít work for me. Give me a couple of hours and Iíll have to fight
to edit it down to 1500-3000 words. I do a lot of writing in my head while
Iím driving or walking the dog, then sit down and spill it all out at once.
I am currently juggling about 5 poetry collections. I let them come to me.
When a particular instance or poem pushes me one way, I go with it. Itís
not rocket science; its words and Iíve never been short of those.
Because Iím always multi-tasking, I tend to get up early. Iím usually in
my office by 6am. Since most of the world doesnít start after me until 9am,
that gives me a time to sort out priorities and get the stuff done that
needs my full attention before the rest of the world catches up to me.
Q: What do you do to relax and to just have fun?
MSD: Walk, bicycle, watch football. I carve wood, paint; I also search out
photo opportunities. Most people on vacation sleep in. I get up early to
catch morning shots because thatís the best light.
Q: What is the number one thing you would like to tell new writers?
MSD: People are different. Writers are different. Donít let anyone
pigeon-hole you or squeeze you into an uncomfortable mold. Create
and keep your own voice. That doesnít mean donít grow. Youíre going
to get influences from those around you, those you read. What it means
is: if you want to be successful as a writer, readers need to hear a
unique voice in their head when they read your work.
Q: If, at the age you are today, you could spend a day with you at age
seven, what would you take back in time, what would you say, what would you do?
MSD: Stay away from women. Theyíll still be there when you turn thirty.
Q: When you feel creatively blocked what do you do to get yourself back
into the creative flow? When your muse is napping what do you do to wake him/her up?
MSD: I donít worry about that stuff. Forced writing is usually bad
writing. Go out. Have a beer. Watch people.
Q: How do you recharge your creativity?
MSD: Itís never really been a real issue. I work with my hands as well
as my head, so I almost always doing something creative. Of course, it
depends on your definition of creativity. When Iím gutting and
re-designing a bathroom, Iím being creative.
Q: What is your greatest inspiration?
Q: What makes you smile?
MSD: My dog.
Q: What advice can you offer to a creative artist who is struggling
with their inner critic?
MSD: Itís good to be critical, itís better to be finished. Write first,
Q: Many artistic people struggle to develop a routine that allows
them time for their creative work. What advice can you give that
will help them create a balance between work and social life?
MSD: Learn to sleep less. I operate on about 4-5 hours every night.
I write early because thatís when everyone else is sleeping and canít
interrupt me. Iím usually done with whatever writing Iím working on by
9-10am. That leaves a whole day to work, socializeówhatever life allows.
Q: What creative individuals do you admire?
MSD: Just about anyone who works with his or her hands. Weíve been
devaluing that in America lately. We reward the thinkers, the investors,
but not the makers.
Q: What is your favorite first sentence in a book?
MSD: There was a sentence in
met in the doorway of a cave where his
captured an entire platoon of the Emperorís fierce
The Saudakar decide to fight because they see a chance to kill the
leader of the rebellion and Paulís body guard wipes them all out.
In reflection he notes (something like): History will record how
Míuah Díib single-handedly defeated an entire platoon of the
Emperorís soldiers when in fact I never lifted my sword. I think
it speaks to the way human beings tend to mythologize their heroes
and their inspirations.
Of course, I also think
did an interesting thing with his
The Gods Themselves. It
has three chapters. The chapter titles are:
Against Stupidity / The Gods Themselves / Contend in Vain. I think of
that often during important elections.
Q: Are you listening to music as you answer these questions? If yes,
what are you listening to?
MSD: Since I like music with lyrics (Iím not a fan of jazz or classical),
I tend to get distracted by them, so, when Iím writing, I donít listen to music.
Q: If you only had one more day to live what would you do with the 24 hours?
MSD: Grab my wife; get in the car and drive.
Q: What traits, if any, do you think that creative people have as
compared to people who are not creative?
MSD: Thatís too broad of a generalization. Iíve seen creativity in
the most mundane places, with people whom others may not consider
creative. I suppose I have a broader definition of creativity than
some, but I think itís everywhere in everyone, itís just a matter
of recognizing it.
Q: When do you feel most energized?
MSD: The minute my eyes pop open in the morning.
Q: Who is the most creative person that you have ever known?
MSD: Possibly my mother, her father or her grandfather. They were
all creative in different ways.
Q: Can you see your finished project before you start it?
MSD: Not usually, but sometimes I can see a blurry finish line ahead.
Q: Do you feel that you chose your passion, or did it choose you?
MSD: No one chooses their passionóif itís truly passion. It will always
choose you. People flirt with things trying to find the right fit, but,
if itís a passion, it grabs you by the nose and drags you with it.
Q: What book are you reading right now?
MSD: Are you kidding me? I read for a living. I make books for a living.
When Iím not working, the last thing I want to do is read. But, okay,
I did pick up a book at a conference a week ago that Iíve been meaning
to get for about a year. I originally read it about 20 years ago in another
format. I have collectorís edition of it that are sealed and valuable,
so when I heard the movie was coming out next year, I wanted to review
the story. Itís a graphic novel,
Alan Moore, and
Before that was
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
The Sportswriter. In
among those I probably
read about 250 poetry books, but the truth is: I donít read many novels.
I have a short attention span and if they donít grab me right off, I set
them down. I lean more toward reading magazines like
ówhatever has a pretty picture on the cover.
Q: What is the last movie you watched?
There Will Be Blood.
ónow why couldnít I have invented that?
Q: What is the favorite question you were ever asked and what was your answer?
MSD: Iím a smart ass by nature and Iíve laid some real zingers out there, but
Iím afraid I donít retain that kind of stuff very well.
Q: What is the best advice youíve ever been given?
MSD: Just be yourself.
Q: Your famous last words, will you share with us a piece of advice,
a favorite quote, a tip, whatever you wish?
MSD: We were having a holiday get together at our house and my mother
forced my brother and me to rake the leaves. My friends were getting
together for a game of football at around noon and I couldnít go play
until the yard had been raked. We had two rakes. One had three tines,
the other was brand new. My brother took the new one and stood over
in the yard playing with it while I raked my ass off trying to get
done so I could leave. Since he obviously wasnít going to work, I
tried to swap rakes with him so I could get done faster. That caused
a loud disagreement that brought my Dad out to holler at us. My
grandfather came out as well. He heard my bitching and moaning and
my soft-spoken grandfather walked up to me and asked me what the
problem was. I told him how my brother wasnít carrying his share of
the work and thatóas long as he wasnítóhe should go ahead and give
me the good rake so I could finish the job. My grandfather said,
ďAny man can do a good job with a good tool. It takes a good man
to do a good job with a lousy tool.Ē One sentence from nearly forty
years ago that may have changed my entire life.
Creative Artists Commnity