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Michael Dean Clark: Guest Fiction Editor, Relief 4.2

Christopher Fisher

Relief is excited to welcome Michael Dean Clark as Guest Fiction Editor for the upcoming Relief 4.2 . Many of you are familiar with Michael as a writer and veteran Relief author through his posts here on our blog. Below is a more detailed look at the man who will be wielding the red pen for fiction in our next issue.

As an author of fiction and nonfiction, I have a hard time with the question people always lead with: “So, what do you write?” The answer, course, is whatever I’m currently in the mood for, which for some reason is a very unsatisfactory answer in conversation. So I often follow that up with the fact that I hold a PhD in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This prompts many people to assume I write things nobody will buy and might be incentive just to call myself a developing author. But the process of getting said degree over the past four years led to several very valuable realizations.

First, the years I spent as a print journalist were not wasted (even when looking at the anemic state of print journalism today). Along with winning Los Angeles Press Club and California Newspaper Publishers’ Association  awards during that period of my career, I also learned that what some writers consider crushing criticism, most reporters call a chat with their editor. This lesson has provided me comfort in the face of (many) rejection letters and a more gentle approach to working with the stories of others, as I did in the creative nonfiction editor’s slot at the cream city review for the past two years.

Another valuable lesson Milwaukee taught me is that while Wisconsin winters are beyond brutal they are also surprisingly tough on those who suffer from seasonal depression. As a result, when my dissertation defense drew near, my job search grew increasingly location conscious. Consequently, I will begin work as an assistant professor of writing at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California this fall. This immense blessing (as getting the job had as much to do with providence as professional skill) has enabled me to (re)discover my geographical muse in the southwestern corner of America. Leave Brooklyn to Lethem, the Mexican border to McCarthy, and the South to whoever wants to try and fill the shoes of O’Connor and Faulkner. I’ve taken my hometown and made it my literary home by focusing most of what I write (except, ironically, my dissertation novel set in West Africa) in California’s richest backdrop for stories. Most recently, my work has appeared in Fast Forward and the forthcoming Coach’s Midnight Diner. I’m also a regular contributor to Relief’s blog where you can find my wandering thoughts on writing, teaching writing, failing to climb mountains, and marmots.

One final lesson I chipped from the ice just south of the Frozen Tundra is that a community of writers is not just helpful, nor is necessary strong enough a word to describe its impact. It is literally life and death for an artist’s work. And the effort the staff of Relief puts into fostering a strong writer’s network is the primary reason I am honored to serve as the guest fiction editor. It is also the reason I can’t wait to see (early, no less) and help shape what will be on the pages of the next edition.