Why Write Fiction?

Books by Philip F Deaver

“After the family broke, 

and when the house was about to sell,

I walked around it for a last look.

Under the eaves, on the ground,

there was a path worn in the dirt,

tight against the foundation —

small padded feet, year after year,

window to window.” (excerpt from the poem “Gray” by Philip F. Deaver)

In addition to winning the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and other prestigious honors, Philip Deaver’s work has been published by some of the finest magazines and has even appeared on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac on multiple occasions (you can listen to Garrison Keillor read the poem “Gray” here – he starts the poem around the 2:43 mark).

As a graduate student, I had the good fortune of listening to Phil read selections of his wonderful poetry and his exceptional short fiction several times before I had the even better fortune of getting to know him as a person.

As good as his writing is (and it’s damn good), what has impressed me most about Phil is his sincerity, his generosity, and his compassion.

He’s not just a man in the sense of his being a husband, and a father, he’s also a guy.

I’m not talking about all that testosterone-laden machismo you see sometimes. I simply mean Phil has always reminded me of the men of my childhood, the hard working, blue collar men I grew up around. Yet infused in that down-to-earth persona is a strong, quiet sensitivity, a creativity and a tenderness and an intelligence. He’s quite a bright man, after all, yet spend some time with him and you’ll soon realize he’s also just one of the guys: the sort of person equally at home in the outdoors, on the sports field, in the classroom, or at the page.

If you spend some time with his work (and I strongly urge you to do so), you’ll undoubtedly find many of those same traits – an honesty, a truthfulness, a sensitivity, an earthiness, an authenticity that will have you feeling that “soaring mountain/wind lifting through the pine stand.”

There’s a personal element to Phil’s writing that is neither overly sentimentalized nor devoid of emotion, a sensibility that feels real and true. There’s a reason the New York Times wrote of his short story collection, Silent Retreats: “Written in vivid, spare prose, the best of these stories linger, sad and profound, like songs you sing to yourself.”

You’ll find yourself not merely immersed in a realistic tale, but also witness to “the heart of why” the story was written.

It’s my honor to offer a special Guest Post by Philip Deaver (not just a writer I admire, but a friend I admire) as he offers an intimate and thoughtful response to the question What Are You Writing For?

As a writer, it’s interesting to me how differently each writer approaches that question.

Of course, Phil’s post is also a response of sorts to a talk given by author Tim O’Brien last summer. Enjoy!
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Klutzy Me: Childhood Blunders and Other Disasters

Rescue Work - Dayton (Bain News Service, Publisher)

Flood – Rescue Work – Dayton (Bain News Service, Publisher)

“Never give a sword to a man who can’t dance.” – Confucius

Believe it or not, I’ve actually been called a good dancer (no, not by the guy in the mirror), but I admit, I’m not someone you probably want to give a sword to . . . unless, you know, it’s time to wield it, time to slay the dragon or defend the kingdom. I’ll be all in, then, focused on my movements, on the intention. My body might even cooperate then.

To just carry around, though, probably not such a good idea.

Even though I grew up playing sports, you could say I was a wee bit klutzy as a boy. I’m a bit suspicious, though, that my little sister crept into my room one night while I was sleeping and adjusted the controls to my center of balance.

No, I can’t prove that. Yet. But here’s what I mean.


When I was about eight-years-old, my mom asked me to go to the store for some milk. Simple enough of a request, right?

The store, it should be noted, was a mere block-and-a-half away, other side of the street, on the way to my favorite hide-and-seek location, the cemetery.

This was back in the day of glass bottles and penny candy. It was the coolest store, and I have to find a way to get that store and the old man who owned it into one of my stories.

I rode my bike, because, you now, it was faster.

I had things to do, after all, like playing football or baseball in the street with my friends. Fortunately, my friends were all in their own houses at the time and were NOT waiting for me on my front stoop because THAT would have been mortifying, since, well, I sort of ran into a snag on the way home.
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So Long 2013, Hello 2014

New Year's Fireworks photo by Madeira Algarve

New Year’s Fireworks photo by Madeira Algarve

“Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn’t wait to get to work
in the morning: I wanted to know what I was going to say.”  – Sharon O’Brien

Well, 2013 is officially over and 2014 is already under way.

I have to admit, 2013 certainly turned out a lot differently than how I thought it would when it started last January.

I learned some things this past year that were rather surprising and disappointing, but I was also reminded of a few important truths: people who truly care about you are genuinely glad for your success (regardless of how great or how small); they might not get what it is you’re trying to do, but they support you and encourage you anyway.

I was also reminded that challenges reveal a lot about the world we live in and a lot about ourselves.

It was much harder than I expected it would be to get my feet back under me again, but thanks to my family and to my friends, I managed to right the ship, so to speak, and to once again head in the direction of my dreams (slightly different dreams, or a different version perhaps, than I may have had to start the year).

That is love. That is a gift. That is why I am such a lucky man.
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