DANGER, MAN WORKING

Writing from the Heart, the Gut, and the Poison Ivy Patch

Michael Perry

“Every writer has advice for aspiring writers. Mine is predicated on formative years spent cleaning my father’s calf pens: Just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has to notice. The fact that I cast my life’s work as slung manure simply proves that I recognize an apt metaphor when I accidentally stick it with a pitchfork. . . . Poetry was my first love, my gateway drug — still the poets are my favorites — but I quickly realized I lacked the chops or insights to survive on verse alone. But I wanted to write. Every day.

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“Every writer has advice for aspiring writers. Mine is predicated on formative years spent cleaning my father’s calf pens: Just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has to notice. The fact that I cast my life’s work as slung manure simply proves that I recognize an apt metaphor when I accidentally stick it with a pitchfork. . . . Poetry was my first love, my gateway drug — still the poets are my favorites — but I quickly realized I lacked the chops or insights to survive on verse alone. But I wanted to write. Every day. And so I read everything I could about freelancing, and started shoveling.”

The pieces gathered within this book draw on fifteen years of what New York Times best-selling author Michael Perry calls “shovel time” — a writer going to work as the work is offered. The range of subjects is wide,from musky fishing, puking, mountain-climbing, Iraq War veterans to the frozen head of Ted Williams. Some assignments lead to self-examination of an alarming magnitude (as Perry notes, “It quickly becomes obvious that I am a self-absorbed hypochondriac forever resolving to do better nutritionally and fitness-wise but my follow-through is laughable.”)

But his favorites are those that allow him to turn the lens outward: “My greatest privilege,” he says, “lies not in telling my own story; it lies in being trusted to tell the story of another.”

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  • Wisconsin Historical Society Press
  • Paperback
  • August 2017
  • 288 Pages
  • 9780870208409

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$18.95

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About Michael Perry

 

Michael Perry is a humorist, radio host, songwriter, and the New York Times bestselling author of several nonfiction books, including Visiting Tom and Population: 485, as well as a novel, The Jesus Cow. He lives in northern Wisconsin with his family.

Author Website