Sunday, December 26, 2010

Henry Miller's Birthday

Happy Boxing Day! Or Henry Miller's birthday, for some of us. For the special day, Kreg over at Millerwalks posted my classic story The Ghost of Henry Miller. It was the first thing I had "published" back on Hackwriters in 2002. It's been a long hard slog of writing since then, but of course now it is all paying off. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Swinging at the New House

video

Let me show you the reason I didn't post often last month.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nomad's End at Bridgeport Public Library



Recently Amy talked about her new book, Nomad's End, with Mary Witkowski's memoir class at the Bridgeport Public Library. It was a good lecture/reading, and we enjoyed speaking with the budding writers there. There was talk of an anthology of Bridgeport memoirs, and I hope that happens. Sharing stories is what being human is all about.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hamden Antiques Show



Amy and I worked the Hamden Historical Society's antique show at the Miller Library this year again. It was a lot of fun, and we look forward to doing it every year.



Amy is joined at the food service counter by Al Gorman and Craig Reynolds.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac

I encountered The Dharma Bums for the first time in college, on a classmate’s shelf. She gushed about the book, but I was more interested in her roommate and didn’t pay enough attention. Many years later, I finally read it on a lonely road trip through New Hampshire during an unusually cold May. Snow drenched the higher elevations and my camping experience became uncomfortable and risky. I paged through Kerouac’s autobiographical novel and wrote two dozen poems. I finished the treasured Beat tome in front of a roaring campfire, beside a bubbling river, before crawling into my sleeping bag. A near-perfect reading experience.

This book is sometimes ignored, due no doubt to its similarity to the more famous On the Road. The sprightly Japhy Rader resembles the more famous Dean Moriarty, though one is based on Gary Snyder and the other Neal Cassady. But this is no retelling, not even a prequel. The Dharma Bums has a charm of its own…from its bookend experiences in the high mountains to its evocative exploration of Buddhism. Of course, the journeys Kerouac’s narrators take may be similar. He always seems to be searching for truth. Does he find it? That’s up to the reader, but the real lesson is that the search is what is important.

Read this book and listen carefully to Kerouac’s barbarous prose. Hear the message both in the words and behind them. Break out of your simple routine and hit the road. Climb a mountain. Fall asleep in a treetop. Meditate for three days. Change your life and broaden your mind. The Beat generation and the counterculture that followed may have had their problems and failures, but at least they tried. And they got one thing absolutely right: life is a journey and if we don’t keep moving, we die.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Wife's Battered Suitcase

My lovely wife, the poet Amy Nawrocki, is published in the latest issue of The Battered Suitcase, an excellent and highly regarded literary magazine. I particularly like her poem about wine in the Finger Lakes. It makes me want to get back to writing our book on Connecticut wine...which is due in less than two months at the publisher!

The Battered Suitcase is available online, but why not buy a copy of the magazine while you're there?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ottawa in Winter



A few years ago, my wife and I went to Ottawa over winter break. Although many might see this as an act of madness, we took the opportunity to walk the lonely, snow-choked streets in search of warm food, music, and art. Sure, next time I go I'd like it to be a sunny spring day along the river, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.



Always look for the unusual travel opportunity, and you will often be rewarded.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Forge



This is the restored "forge" at the Eli Whitney Factory in Hamden, Connecticut. A beautiful building itself, I am also struck by the beauty of forging. Recently, at the Renaissance Faire in Massachusetts, I once again had the opportunity to watch the forging of metals (to create swords in that case). Three times I've done it myself, creating a knife, a candle holder, and a crowbar. This ancient technology is nothing short of miraculous, and I encourage everyone to both witness and try it. Make an attempt to understand the process, the amazing way that heat changes the structure of the substances, and allows us to create tools.

We take so much for granted that people even a hundred years ago did not. Make an attempt at understanding the processes that create "civilized" experience and you will take less for granted. Take nothing for granted, and you will be surprised at the rich intricacy of human life.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Becoming the World's Strongest Writer

“To write, you must read.” - Kurt Vonnegut

“She needs to read more poetry if she ever wants to become a better writer,” insisted my colleague when talking about one of our weaker creative writing students. I agreed heartily, having browbeat a screenwriter friend with this idea for years. “But I need more time for writing,” he would counter. “I don’t have time for reading with a job and family.” “True enough,” I grudgingly admitted. This creates an apparent paradox for authors. We need quality input to generate quality output, but unless we have nothing else to do all day, reading books takes away from production. Nevertheless, this is a little like saying that eating protein takes away from weight-lifting. These activities are inter-related in such a way that one cannot exist meaningfully without the other. If that creative writing student does not ingest volumes of poetry, her own work will remain weak and frail, unable to lift the most generous reader’s heart.



Of course, we often need to research a subject before writing about it, and this is the most basic sort of necessary input, the sort no one can disagree with. To write a mystery novella that involved cryonics and cloning, I needed to research these disciplines, at least enough to use them without making factual errors. However, it’s not just ideas and data that we mine this input for, but style, words, images, and stories. While writing a book about hiking in Connecticut, I read dozens of long-distance walking and adventure stories. This input increased the quality of my final product in a way that would never have happened if I had not been reading. The rhythms of our language and the word choices we make do not appear from thin air. As a newborn baby learns its language from its parents, writers learn from their own literary lineage. The idea of “originality” may trouble some writers, but even divine inspiration comes from somewhere, by definition. We must take the language of others deep into our blood, combine it and transform it, and finally make it our own.

What if you just don’t have time for all this? Then, I’m sorry to say, it’s time to lose the popcorn and sugar snacks and get to the hard-core protein. What constitutes protein? Well, that depends on what you are writing. “Stop watching sports,” some teachers might say. Absolutely…if you’re not writing something that would benefit from it. If you’re composing a short story about a decaying baseball player or a screenplay about a crazy fan, then watching sports is the protein. If soap operas give you ideas for poems, then by all means watch them. Still, though it probably doesn’t need to be said, if you are working in the medium of writing, then reading other texts will usually be far more productive. Only you know what input is a guilty pleasure and what is both fruitful and soul-stirring.

Of course, it is hard to know exactly what will help us until we read, but we can guess. Recently, I visited a used bookstore and found an entire shelf of outdoor adventure stories that I longed to devour. A few years back I had gulped down many hearty meals of this genre while writing the hiking book I mentioned earlier. But now I was writing a memoir of college life that required a different approach and a different kind of input. So I passed those adventure stories by, searching for memoirs and college novels.



And that is the point. If someone wants to write the best she can, while holding down a job, a family, and an active lifestyle, then this critical attention to input is absolutely necessary. Critical attention does not mean you won’t enjoy the books. Read what you like, but push the boundaries, and read consistently and vigorously. In the long run, laziness in this regard is just as detrimental as sloth in the writing itself.

To increase the daily input, try alternate methods like books on tape. After listening to forty-eight lectuers on Ancient Egypt over a month of driving to work, I have more ideas than I can possibly produce. Maybe I overdid it, but what would I have done instead? Listen to the news or music? These are both worthy activities, but were not helping my writing, so I had to cut them. I try to read on breaks at work, on trains, in traffic jams, and at every boring event I am forced to attend. At all times I have a book as well as a notebook, ready to use at any spare moment. Waiting for a late student to show for a meeting becomes ten minutes of solid input. The more I read, the faster I get, devouring books like a champion bodybuilder. My reading comprehension skyrockets, and those snatches of reading during television commercials become actually productive.

As an author, your number one job is to start writing. We can get drawn in by the lure of input, as it is generally easier than the writing itself. It can become an “excuse” to put off our great masterpiece. Nevertheless, input and output build on each other, like lifting weights and eating protein. Writing, like weight-lifting, will make you hungrier, and eating protein-rich books will help those muscles grow. The more you do of both, the easier both become. If you want to be the World’s Strongest Writer, you have a lot of reading and writing to do.


First published in T-Zero: The Writer's Ezine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Afoot in Connecticut Paused



You may have noticed that my Afoot in Connecticut videos have taken a short hiatus. This is due to my video program (Corel) having some sort of bug. I have to reinstall it, but the discs are packed away (I am moving to a house in the woods). So, look for more around the holidays. I have posted 30 videos this year, which seems to be a nice number. Expect another 30 in 2011.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Adult Behavior



My story, "Adult Behavior," has been published in the Fall 2010 edition of ken*again. Enjoy here!

Interestingly, it is just in time for my own third anniversary (though I wrote this years ago).

Friday, October 29, 2010

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum



Amy and I recently enjoyed the unique Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. We especially found the empty frames of the stolen pictures moving. If you're in the Boston area, this is a must-see.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Renaissance Faire



I thoroughly enjoyed our trip to King Richard's Faire in Massachusetts last weekend. I hadn't attended one in 10 years, and Amy had never seen one. It was refreshing to see people, especially young people, expressing themselves in healthy ways that our culture tends to marginalize or even demonize.



I'm going to write an essay about that, right after the wine book, and the next novel, and the 40 essays and stories that are in my "working" file.



In the meantime, check out these excellent photos we got of the pageantry and wonder of fantasy anachronism in action.



Thursday, October 21, 2010

Podcast of Necessary Voices

My lecture at the University of Bridgeport on the intersection of history and storytelling is now available on podcast here. You can download it and burn it if you like!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Necessary Voices Video



Enjoy my lecture on the history of Hamden, and the importance of local history, “Storytelling as Method for History: Telling Tales of the Sleeping Giant.”

How does a writer make history come alive? Author and University of Bridgeport Creative Writing Professor Eric D. Lehman explained historical storytelling, using his latest book, Hamden: Tales from the Sleeping Giant as the primary example.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mount Carmel Congregational Church



I had a great time talking to the members (and guests) of the Mount Carmel Congregational Church last Sunday evening. We chatted about Hamden, and I met one of the little boys on the front of the Hamden book. Of course, he is not a little boy any more! 75 years have passed since that photo of the Sleeping Giant Park Association "victory party" was taken. It was a privilege and an honor. Thanks especially to Reverend Doug House, my colleague at the University of Bridgeport, who invited me to speak.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harvest at Gouveia Vineyard





Amy and I had a great time harvesting grapes at Gouveia Vineyards last weekend. Amy even stomped some grapes. You can be sure the experience will make it into the next book...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Necessary Voices



Just this week I had the pleasure of headlining the first of the new lecture series at UB, Necessary Voices. There was a huge turnout, as you can see, and I think I did a good job talking about the intersection of storytelling and history.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Afoot in Connecticut Episode 29 - Glacial Erratics



Ever wonder what a glacial erratic is? Find out in my latest video.

Note that I've gotten fancier, using several videos together. Thanks as always to my video team (Amy).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Great Turnout at the Jonathan Dickerman House



Thanks to the Hamden Historical Society and everyone who showed up and joined the wine and cheese party at the historic Jonathan Dickerman House. Look at all those cars in the parking lot!



We even had a photographer from the local paper there, and the photo made the front page. Of course, they called me "Eric B. Lehman" in the article. But I'll live.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Wine and Cheese Anyone?

I'll be signing books at the Jonathan Dickerman House on Mount Carmel Ave. in Hamden tomorrow from 1-4. (Sunday, August 29) I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Afoot in Connecticut Episode 26 - The Old Riverton Inn



My girlfriend Amy and I spent a sunny March day sightseeing in northern Connecticut. We had taken numerous photographs of remarkable trees, such as the famous Pinchot sycamore, and visited Ender’s Falls in the pine forests of the Tunxis hills. Then, after a day of exploring, we were ready to relax. Amy had put up all day with my stubborn refusal to mark our destination. “Are you going to tell me where we’re going?” “Guess.” She rattled through a list and hit the jackpot: an inn. Earlier, she had guessed a bed and breakfast, which I denied. They are different planets as far as I’m concerned. A bed and breakfast is simply someone’s open house, but an inn is a lodging tradition, a living museum, a gathering of people and their history.

This was Amy’s first inn. I had lodged at inns in Europe, but never in America. They were rare here, like otters or elm trees. Even bed and breakfasts were not common, and those that were scattered across the expansive American landscape cost three times what they did in England, a haven for only the nostalgic wealthy. The rest of us can always drive farther now, staying to the superhighways and convenient hundred-room hotels. And what really makes the inn different than a “hotel?” If you have to ask, you’ve never been to an inn. You could adopt an inn, staying on as a permanent resident, and it would feel like home. “Inns are scarcely public places in the sense that railway stations, town halls, and museums are public places. They are semi-private. We know that they are commercial undertakings; yet in a good inn we have, and should have, the feeling of making one at the home of a family who are keeping open house in the manner of the old squire on feast days,” Thomas Burke tells us in The English Inn. No hotel can claim this distinction, cramped by the same dependence on time that we ourselves feel.

At an old crossroads on the scenic Route 20, a bridge led to the front door of the Old Riverton Inn, proclaimed by a sign secured to the roof of the three-story building. In the times before automobiles, stage drivers would stop at their favorite inns, bringing travelers and business. There were several rival stage companies that operated between New Hartford and Riverton in Connecticut, part of a larger network of the Hartford to Albany post route. The gray-sided Riverton Inn, built in 1796, is the only survivor of this lodging-path. A bay window in the tavern downstairs occupied the place where a front door would have stood in former times. Huge pines shaded the colonial inn and thickened up the river valley’s flanks. A friendly sign hung from a branch of one of these old trees above the innyard carpark, telling us “Hospitality for the hungry, thirsty, and sleepy.”

Inside, the thick-beamed dining room spread out past the grandfather clock foyer. The muraled Hobby Horse Bar, with floors of Vermont flagstone, extended to the back of the inn. Saddles balanced on kegs, which remained from an earlier age to serve as bar stools. To the north an enclosed grindstone terrace appeared closed for the season. Each room brimmed with antiques and tasteful novelties, which in another setting might be considered tacky. As The English Inn tells us: “Old fireplaces, beautiful windows, carven doorways, staircases, king-posts, moulded ceilings – indeed, all those interests that you can only otherwise indulge at a museum can be indulged at the old inn. The stuff is there in situ.”

Our room perched above the restaurant, directly above the table we would dine at later. The liberal windows granted views of the west branch of the Farmington River and the old Hitchcock chair factory. The centerpiece was a generous king-sized Hitchcock bed with antique headboard. A long green chaise lounge angled in the corner for daybed lollygagging. Floral wallpaper, an antique spinning wheel turned into a planter, and an old fireplace completed the nostalgic tableau. A step up into the bathroom led to white towels on mahogany racks and the exposed pipes of an ancient sink. And as a surprise I had prepared for Amy, on the chest of drawers near the door a bottle of champagne rested on ice next to a wrapped box of fine chocolates. The living, timeless romance of the inn leant itself greatly to this more common form, solidifying and enhancing an act that might in other places be considered trite and over-sentimental.

A candlelight dinner for two was also on my romantic menu that night. At a corner table by the roaring fire, we sipped a fine cabernet. For an appetizer we shared mushrooms with gorgonzola. For the main course, Amy chose the porkloin and I had the duck. Desserts, wine, everything was perfect and ordered, linking us to the long history of satisfied patrons. Time drew out and lingered, burning as slowly as the great fire that warmed the March rooms. We stumbled back upstairs to a full night’s rest, feeling the complete effects of hospitality.

A place outside of time, a gathering of people and history, stability and permanence in our time-scattered lives…the inn was all this and more. Restored by its love, Amy and I enjoyed a country breakfast in the morning before heading off to hike the snowy People’s State Forest. As we left the innyard, another car pulled in, another story ready to happen, leaving no break in the romance of continuity.


First published in Hackwriters: The International Writer's Journal.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Nomad's End by Amy Nawrocki



Nomad's End, the new chapbook by my lovely wife, Amy Nawrocki, is available for pre-order at Finishing Line Press here. It comes highly recommended - the next poet laureate of the state of Connecticut, Dick Allen, says that "these are poems of the tides - sensual, precise, joyous, loving, and truly, truly fine."

Friday, July 9, 2010

On WPKN with Valerie Richardson



You can find my interview with Valerie Richardson here. I'm on from 6:00-7:00, though she introduces me right at the beginning (4:00). She spins some good tunes, too. Everyone take a listen!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Save the Barnum Museum



The Barnum Museum was damaged by the recent tornado and needs our help!

Monday, June 14, 2010

At the Hamden Historical Society



Technically we're in the Miller Memorial Public Library's senior center social room. But this is a presentation sponsored by the Society. We had about 40 people - quite a crowd, actually. Almost everyone bought my book (or already had it). And I had a great time talking with everyone about Hamden's amazing history.



Saturday, June 5, 2010

Afoot in Connecticut Episode 16 - Sharpe Hill Vineyard



The lunch (and wine) we had there was fantastic! We also interviewed the owners, Steven and Catharine Vollweiler, for our upcoming book on the History of Connecticut Wine.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Le Grand Meaulnes

I have review of Alain Fournier's masterpiece, Le Grand Meaulnes in the New Haven Review. Though I prefer the other title - The Lost Domaine. I explain why in the review.

Do yourself a favor and buy a copy, here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Haven Museum Appearance



I gave a talk at the New Haven Museum (Historical Society) on Wednesday night. It was a big success, with 25 or so people showing up, and everything going smoothly. Everything that is, except the power going out on the upper floor! However, we set up in the room you see here, and it worked out great. There was a moment when we thought we'd have standing room only in there, but we brought in a couple extra chairs and everything was fine. Of course, you can see there were two open seats in the front row, too...it's just like students in a classroom. No one wants to sit there!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Barnes and Noble North Haven



Here is my signing at the B&N in North Haven on Saturday, May 22. It was a beautiful day and there wasn't a huge turnout (though I had a great talk with those five or six people who did show). However, that store has already sold over 30 of my books, and the first month of sales isn't even up yet. Nor have I been featured in the newspaper yet. Hopefully, it is a sign of things to come.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Awarded for Service



Here I am accepting an award from the IDEAL program at the University of Bridgeport, for more than seven years of service. I actually have eleven years, but this is the first time they are giving the award...



It's always nice to be recognized for service, and even better when you are given a nice plaque. I'll put it with my old soccer trophies and chess medals!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Phi Kappa Phi Initiation







As some of you may know, I currently serve as the president for the UB chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. I was happy this year to serve the students who have earned this incredible distinction. I was not as pleased to wear the yellow thing that made me look like a bishop, but you can judge for yourselves from the photos.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Bridgeport: The Musical





Here are some pictures from the recent play by the Wednesday Afternoon Musical Club (founded in 1897). They used my book, Bridgeport: Tales from the Park City, to provide text in between songs. I particularly liked the way they worked in Catherine Moore, lighthouse keeper extraordinaire. You can see her carrying her lantern around the church in picture one.

It took place in Easton at the Jesse Lee Methodist Church, and the Club wants to take it on the road. It really gives a sense of pride about a much maligned city!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Finalist!

My novella, A City of Old Stories, was chosen as a finalist for the Snake Nation Press Serena McDonald Kennedy Award. I see that they put me at the top of the list, too. Maybe that means the editors (who usually pick the finalists in these cases) liked mine the best. Too bad the judge did not, but it's a good sign for the future.

I have been told by several people who read it that it is the best thing I have written (so far). I hope someday that you all will get to judge that for yourselves.

Friday, April 30, 2010

My Website

I've updated my personal website, so check it out here.

It includes my new 2010 book tour, both my books, and a little more information about yours truly. Give me some feedback and let me know what else it needs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Travel and Adventure Class

Here are my intrepid students braving the winds to reach Fayerweather Island in Bridgeport last week.







No one was hurt, and we saw a lot of seabirds. Both a plus.