Late Night Library

Rookie Report: Terry Kennedy and Courtney McDermott

Terry Kennedy | New River Breakdown | Unicorn Press
October 2013


Just past June and our old dog is swimming the slow summer waters of this ancient river; both of them gliding with a natural ease that defies their age, the intent and purpose of their separate journeys. Closing my eyes, I can’t help but imagine you on your trip, thumb gently stroking your one-way passage across Cook Straight. In pea coat and cap, on the back of the boat you seem to be looking for where you have been as a pod of small dolphins jumps & dives in the wake of your southbound ferry. It’s hard to imagine that kind of freedom: happy both in & out of the water. But even those dolphins, their gray rounded fins like worn river rocks, are harder and harder to find. Up on the ridge in the hazy distance, a wild goat surveys her bend in the river. If given just one more chance, do you think she would jump in the farmer’s old pickup—enjoy the fenced safety of stables and hay? After the ferry has docked in Picton, the strong brave arms of someone else will start to warm your restless heart. So, before you’ve forgotten what you’ve left behind, I want you to know how far I have come: I still like to feel rooted—find comfort beneath the outspread branches of hundred-foot trees. But there’s also the river, moving on to Virginia; and each time our dog circles back past me, I can see in her eyes that she wants me to follow, see just how far it can possibly take us.
-excerpt from “New River Breakdown”

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New River BreakdownLate Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or less.

Terry Kennedy: A book about longing—about time & distance.

LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?

TK: If you put Pablo Neruda, Bruce Springsteen, and Ron Rash into the Espresso Book Machine, I like to think that “New River Breakdown” is what would emerge five minutes later.

LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?

TK: Start with a river. Throw in everything every you can lay your eyes on: dogs, dragonflies, beech trees, maples, elms, robins, swallows, goats, the sky. Pour it over emotional conflict. Wait to see what rises.

LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.

TK: Michael Parker’s If You Want Me to Stay. That prose is music, the lines, poetry.

LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.

TK: I chose the prose poem form for New River Breakdown because it seemed the best way to tell the story. But I also wanted to have a book that would reach out to audiences who don’t necessarily read poetry, and the prose poem, since people are comfortable reading prose, is a good bridge for that.

Get a copy of New River Breakdown from Unicorn Press

KennedyTerry_JanHensleyPhotoTerry L. Kennedy is the author of the limited edition chapbook Until the Clouds Shatter the Light That Plates Our Lives, selected by Thomas Lux for Jeanne Duval Editions of Atlanta, GA. His work appears in numerous literary journals and magazines including Cave Wallfrom the FishouseSouthern Review, and Waccamaw, and has been honored with a Randall Jarrell Fellowship as well as fellowships to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He currently serves as the Associate Director of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is Editor of the online journal  storySouth.

Rookie strip

 Courtney McDermott | How They Spend Their Sundays
Whitepoint Press | September, 2013


The dead car didn’t have a steering wheel. Someone had sawed it off, so Seabata had rigged one out of chicken wire. Slight beneath his branchy fingers, it gave him the illusion that he could drive. Always driving at an angle, for one tire remained on the car, sunken and muddy. The others stripped by thieves.

Shorty lay on the floor of the car – the seats taken to sit in a hut – his feet bare and resting on the dash. He smoked a joint. It nestled in his wide white piano key teeth. He rubbed his fingers up and down his chest bone, playing his ribs.

“We could play football today.”

“Nah.” Seabata arched up and over the wheel, pretending that the road was getting steep. He wanted to be a driver, so he practiced in the hollows of dead cars.

excerpt from “How They Spend Their Sundays”


Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or less.

Courtney McDermott: Minimalist, unsettling stories about complicated people, set in southern Africa.

How They Spend Their SundaysLNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?

CM: The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel and the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” by Hemingway.

LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?

CM: A smooth blend of observation, experience and imagination. Chopped up with sparsity. Kneaded with active verbs. And always with a dash of social justice to give it a subtle flavor.

LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.

CM: Anne of Green Gables. The sheer thrill I felt meeting all of those characters for the first time, and knowing—at the age of 10—that I had met a ‘kindred spirit’ is an unparalleled experience. Though I’ve read that novel nearly every year since then, it doesn’t measure up to the first reading—the surprises and smiles and tears—and the knowledge that my discovery at 10 would be a companion for the rest of my life. It’s hard to compete with the enthusiasm of a kid for a good book!

LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.

CM: Question: What is the work/project you’ve been dying to start, and why haven’t you?

I never work on just one project, and because of this many things are started, and many more need to be started. I’ve been dying to start a novel about a group of friends at a women’s college. The characters are already blooming, and I’m excited about exploring their adventures. I attended Mount Holyoke College, and the women’s college experience is so unique and misunderstood that it deserves a more prominent space in literature. I recently finished reading Mary McCarthy’s The Group, and that rekindled my interest in this project. I keep avoiding this project, though, because I don’t want it to be ushered into the category of chick-lit, and so I’m still waiting for the right voice to emerge and tell this story.

Get a copy of How They Spend Their Sundays from Indiebound

McDermott_CourtneyCourtney McDermott’s short stories and essays have appeared in Berkeley Fiction Review,
Daily Palette, Found Press, Italy from a Backpack, A Little Village Magazine, The Lyon
Review, Nassau Review
, and Sliver of Stone. She also writes book reviews for  NewPages.com and various journals. A returned Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Lesotho, her first collection of short stories, How They Spend Their Sundays, was inspired by her experience. She has her MFA in creative writing from the University of Notre Dame and currently lives in the Boston metro area.

 

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Posted on: November 1, 2013 · Blog, Homepage, Rookie Report ·Tags: , , , , .

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