The Shirtpocket MFA: Poetry & Fiction

The Shirtpocket MFA: Poetry & Fiction

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2,312 words (≈ 9 minutes)

The Shirtpocket MFA is for anyone who cares about writing. What is "Fine Art?" Who is a poet, and who is a storyteller? What is the writer's responsibility in publishing? This brief essay will remain relevant year after year.

The Shirtpocket guides were first printed and bound in a format that fit in a shirt pocket. They are written in the spirit of "The Elements of Style," {Strunk & White) and "The C Programming Language," (Kernighan & Ritchie), models for expository writing.

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Book Details  


Language: English

Written in: 2010

Published: 2010-11-13

Word count: 2,312 words (≈ 9 minutes)

License: Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (cc by-nc-nd)

Tags: , , , ,


Biography 


I was born in Greenwich Village, New York City, but raised, mostly, by my grandparents in Woodstock, a small town in the Catskill mountains. Midway through sophomore year at Hamilton College, an inner voice said, “Get out!” It seemed crazy, but I knew it was the right thing to do. A fraternity brother told me I'd have no trouble finding work on the shrimp boats in Key West.

A friend and I hitchhiked south. Near the New Jersey line we got a ride with another young guy, Pete. "Where you headed?"

"Florida."

"Me, too," he said. He told us that he'd gotten up before dawn in a small Vermont town, thrown some clothes and a baseball glove in the trunk, left a note on his girlfriend's porch, and taken off. We rocked on down the coast, listening to Brenda Lee, getting warmer each day.
I left my friends near Miami and went on to Key West. When I got there, I walked to the harbor and asked for a job on the first boat I found that had anyone on board. The captain said, “Shrimp season’s over, kid.”

I think he felt sorry for me. He pointed to a rusty shrimper across the water. “He might take you.” I picked up my bag and ran around to the other jetty, arriving just as the boat began to pull away. A man on deck was doing something with a cable. He wore a sweatshirt and had a two-day growth.

“I’m looking for work,” I shouted over the engine. 

“You a winch man?”

The winch occupied a large part of the deck, a complicated assembly of giant gears and levers. The strip of water below my feet widened. It was jump or forget it. I had a vision of winching the boat upside down in the Gulf. I shook my head and walked to the Southern Cross Hotel, a wooden building with white peeling paint and a sign declaring, The Southernmost Hotel in the United States.

I wrote it down in a notebook and have been writing ever since. Along the way I served in the Air Force, earned a degree in computer science from the University of Hawaii, married twice, and raised children. The adventures, the loves and betrayals, the teachers, the lessons---they are in my stories and poems, where, like all writers, I have tried to make of my deeper bio something worthwhile.
 
JMW


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