Dybek: Voice of the Midwest

I make no apologies for my idolization of Stuart Dybek, author and poet extraordinaire. He is a master storyteller, and king of the short story. Don’t believe me? Read “Pet Milk” from Coast of Chicago (which is a collection I can’t recommend enough) and see how he paints with nostalgia; how he makes us feel the quiet moments of reflection…ponder on the human condition like no other.

It was an absolute joy welcoming Stuart to Ann Arbor last week for Voices of the Middle West 2015, a literary conference I put on through Midwestern Gothic. He read a selection from Paper Lanterns (also incredible), and I was honored to be able to welcome him to the stage for the keynote, to get to say a few words about how he exemplifies the Midwest…our mythos and stories.

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And his keynote did not disappoint. It was funny, poignant…just stellar. He gave perhaps some of the best writing advice I’ve heard in my life, a play on the old adage of “write what you know”: our lives, no matter what they are, our races and genders and creeds…these are gifts. Gifts we should embrace when we write, stories that only we can tell. And so we shouldn’t have to feel the need to be something or someone else.

That really stuck with me, and I have a feeling always will.

What a wonderful weekend, and Stuart, if you’re reading this (in my dreams): thank you.

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