How I Drive Writers to Drink (In a Good Way?)

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This is a guest post from Kevin Derr, who shares his experience of a writing workshop I gave last weekend in Evansville, Ind. Find Kevin Derr on Facebook.

Big thanks to the Evansville Public Library & the Midwest Writers Guild for their promotion of the event, to make it standing-room only!


More than sixty people sat in the library meeting room with their
lottery ticket-like manuscripts and query letters in their hands. The
imposing editor, all five foot four inches and one hundred and sixteen
skinny pounds of her, stood before the room and told them why their
work, their expression of their souls, may be art, hell, it may even be
good, but isn’t saleable.

word, saleable, one of the little rounds of market ammunition that
pierce the skin of each of them every day in their real lives is there
to destroy the one thing, the one hope, those writers have of escaping
Smith’s invisible hand, that hand used to choke the weak and lavish
riches on the strong. That word keeps them from leaving the burning
factory, the stinking nursing home sick rooms, the mind numbing second
grade classroom and the domestic life solitary prison.

part-time writer and full-time transmission mechanic sits in the back
of the room looking over the heads of the others, mostly women and
mostly red heads, nearly everyone older, old enough to want to fulfill
this one wish, to publish, before it’s too late. He holds his
manuscript in his grease stained hands knowing that his work is
different. His work is art. His work will make the world take one step

He leaves the program, afraid to talk with the others,
afraid to listen to their self-inflated greatness and mixes a drink
from his emergency rations for the long drive home. A few short paved
miles and he is on gravel. He takes his first drink and it’s good,
whiskey, mostly whiskey, and Mountain Dew.

A fearless doe walks
into the road. She stops and looks at the transmission mechanic as he
comes to a stop. He stares at her, her big brown eyes, her muscular
flanks, her unimpeachable, natural beauty and the writer forgets about
salability and automatic transmissions and he plans his next story, a
good one.