I fell in love with the above quote as well as the book's tagline: So, you always wanted to be a writer. You might want to reconsider. So mysterious, slightly ominous. Genre lines blur, but I read enough to find a nugget, some tiny world of truth in most works of fiction. Abe Aamidor's newest piece is full of them. He is also offering advice, really, in his latest work Monastery of Writers, a heads up for anyone who ever heard or thought, "I want to be a writer!" without actually reading or writing anything.That alone made me wonder if Aamidor was a teacher, a professor perhaps who heard that line ten times a semester and finally snapped – writing this book as therapy. Perhaps I'm just projecting. I decide to ask him at the book signing last Friday night at Bookmamas.
"Oh, yes - for many years I was an adjunct instructor," he said, "although not in the last few years." I knew it! He's taken a break from teaching, and seems content within himself, within semi-retirement. "I would teach creative writing, if asked," he says, after a moment's pause. I chat with Aamidor for two hours – he won me over immediately, not just as an author, but as an ex-feature writer who understands there are differences between creative writing, literature, and journalism.
“Tens of thousands of books are published each year, but for fiction it’s mostly genre writing and I think even literary fiction is its own kind of genre, much like so-called progressive rock music, a lot of which sounds and feels alike to me,” said Aamidor when asked about what he says to blossoming writers who want to publish. “The biggest hurdle is getting an agent — no major publisher and almost no mid-list publisher any longer will deal with un-agented material. I have in my novel a true story of a national best-selling author who tells would-be writers all the time to get an agent, but won’t talk about her real mother-in-law, who is a top New York literary agent.”
Aamidor is a sharpened writer. He has co-authored six non-fiction books, on everything from the history of British motorcycles to a biography of the real Chuck Taylor — the Converse shoe icon. He is also a former Indianapolis Star writer, and has had bylines in more than a dozen in literary journals in the past four years. A novel seemed like the next step.
“I was looking at all the ads for MFA programs in Poets & Writers
magazine, and I had seen such ads in other magazines that serve people with literary interests,” said Aamidor, on the inspiration for this novel. “Combine that with what I knew about the history of the West Baden Springs Hotel, including its period as a Christian monastery, and I had the idea…”
Aamidor is familiar with the rule write what you know, so he does — making sure to set stories in places he is familiar with so as to lend authenticity. It works. "Do I love Indiana? Is it fertile? Is it undiscovered ground? No, to all of the above. Stories have to be set somewhere. In some of the short stories I've had published [in literary journals], I have also used Memphis and Chicago, which I have some affinity for. In order to plant seeds, you have to know the soil, so to speak. My stories are not set in, say, Paris. Readers would know I'm not as familiar with that city."
And with that note, I learn more from Aamidor in two hours than I did in the entire last year of my doctoral program. I'm not saying it to be facetious – I'm deadly serious. Our topics range from journalism and teaching, to politics and creative writing, and on to Robie Macauley, pensions, literary journals, and of course, small presses.
"If I were younger, I would have taken an LA agent's advice and waited,” said Aamidor. “But at my age, I can't keep holding out as it really may be now or never to get a novel published. If I were younger I would have been afraid of being pigeon-holed. Having said that, certainly many people are discovered, as it were, on the pages of small literary journals and in the 'small press'."
And he's right. The monastery of writers he's created is no different than the Borderlands Press Bootcamp I will attend in January 2016. My conversation with Abe felt very much like a date, where no one looked at their phones, interesting and intelligent human dialogue ensued, and of course his wife was present. But this was all part of the magic of Abe Aamidor. The magic of 'Monastery of Writers,’
which I will put at 4.5 out of 5 stars.
" ... is the life you've been living really normal ... ?"