Found Lit


I have a friend who has a beautiful, slightly abstract, driftwood goose on the wall of his den. The bird’s neck is extended and the wings are on the down-stroke and you know exactly what this worn and eroded piece of wood is at first glance. It was entirely created by nature. No one ever put a carving implement to this piece of art. My friend simply picked it up, saw it for what it was, and took it home to hang on the wall.

The term for this is found art.

Can there be found art when it comes to writing? I’m not talking about finding a particular event or landscape and describing it, but an actual something already written. Found literature? I’m a believer.

I once decided to write Haiku. After years of newspaper reporting I indulged the desire to write a 100,000-word novel. Then I went the other way and tried to see how much I could say with just a few words.

Haiku presented that challenge. A handful of syllables arranged just so in a three -line poem that would involve some aspect of nature, express the season and speak to a transition. I wrote a whole bunch of them. None were any good. I threw them all away.

Then one day I walked outdoors and found that nature had written one for me.

I call it Owled. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. I took a noun and made it a verb. Poets get to do that. It’s called creative license (don’t ask to see mine). Here’s that piece of found lit.


Lace of mouse tracks

Freshly stitched in new snow

Ends with wing prints


How to Write a Novel


Someone who recently read my still unpublished novel Beyond Bethlehem asked me how I did this – actually write a whole novel? My answer was there is only one way to write a novel and that’s to sit down and start writing. It won’t happen until then.

My novel started with a turkey hunt gone good.

I had played with the idea of writing a novel for years, making occasional notes, scribbling down ideas, and daydreaming various scenes. But I never quite got around to taking that all-important first step – actually writing.

What got me started was taking a week of vacation one May to really indulge my recent addiction to hunting wild turkeys. Wouldn’t you know, I bagged a turkey the first day. That left another eight consecutive days to do something else. Since I had used all my spare time the previous month doing chores so I would have the whole vacation free, I didn’t have anything left on the “honey-do” list.

So I started writing. By this time I had been a newspaper reporter for a bunch of years. So I had some confidence I could pull this off. I knew I had the discipline to actually sit down and write on a regular basis. And I was reporting at the rate of more than 6,000 words a week or 300,000 words a year.

Hell, that’s three 100,000 word novels, right?

The entire journey took much longer than that, of course. And I wrote and rewrote this novel many times before I was happy with it. But that’s a bunch of different stories.

This one is about how I started.