Looking Up


I’ve known many dogs but this one is strange.
When he hears a jet, he looks at the sky.
In the world of dogs, he has a sixth sense.
Other hounds hear sounds but don’t wonder why.

We ski on the trails out by the airport.
He sees Vipers fly and starts to give chase.
He runs right for them, tearing through the woods.
Maybe one of these days he’ll win that race.

I told a friend my dog chases aircraft.
He said he knew a border collie once
that did the same thing. It’s making sense now.
My dog’s half that breed and also half dunce.

It’s easy to find pilots in a crowd.
If planes fly by, they’re the ones looking up.
Fate must’ve brought me this weird shelter dog.
Odd little black-and-white plane-obsessed pup.

So, at a picnic with folks all around
with the kids and the dogs all running by,
if a Beaver on floats flies overhead,
Leo and I will look up at the sky.


(Poem appears in Hugging This Rock by Eric Chandler)

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The Wave One Project (#6): Dad Bod


The last time I was serious. A couple years ago. 

I was listening to some old-timer say that he didn’t really race for results anymore. He was just happy to be able to still do it. I nodded my head while I was thinking, that is such complete bullshit.

I still think so. Kind of. I had an off year. I still care about “results.” But I’m a lot closer to being that old-timer.

Skiing 2018

Still a pretty good ski year.

I put in less volume in 2018 than I have since 2009. This is the third year of a downward trend in volume. I have “let myself go” as they say. In a high correlation, my weight for the year has trended up over the past three years. That’s it. There’s your annual summary. My skiing totals have stayed about the same, but overall, volume is down and Shmo size is up. I need to reverse the trend. Only a couple weeks to this year’s Birkie and not much I can do to change the inevitable outcome (slow). But I’m hopeful for a good 2019.

Total hours 2018

Volume went down which means…

Weight 2018

…Shmo gets bigger.

I have to give myself a little slack. In March, when I still thought I could run a Boston qualifying time in the marathon this year, I pulled my left hamstring. I’ve never really had a running injury. Flattened me pretty good for a month or two. I tried to run through it, without much success. Then I got ill 36 hours before Grandma’s Marathon. I signed up for a 50k trail ultra in October and then, wouldn’t you know it, I plumb forgot to train. I’ve heard you have to train for these things.

So, onward to 2019. I’m going to adopt some of my writing mantra here, also:

2019: Less talking. More doing.

In my case, more moving.

Hope you have a good one, too.

Totals Text 2018

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Shmo’s 2018 Writing Review

Bridging the Gap! with Randy Brown, Andria Williams, yours truly, David Chrisinger, and Mary Doyle. June 2018.

Felt like a year where I thought about writing more than I did it. Read far fewer books this year than I read each of the past two years. My publishing output seemed skinnier this year. I’m tempted to feel disappointed.

David Chrisinger talks to the attendees at Bridging the Gap. Duluth, MN, June 2018.

But too many things happened in the writing arena to feel down just because I didn’t generate as much “content.” I organized a writing conference back in June called Bridging the Gap. It took a year and a half of planning and nail biting and worrying about sandwiches. But then my writing friends traveled across the country to come to Duluth in a driving, 40 degree rainstorm (that’s Duluth in early June sometimes) to talk about and teach the craft of writing and publishing. Writers deal in words. Actions speak louder and David Chrisinger, Randy Brown, Mary Doyle, and Andria Williams really came through for me and the writers of the conference. I can’t thank them enough. Randy wrote up a really nice review of the event here: Notes from a Civil-Military Writing Conference.

Andria Williams took a good picture of me with some Iowa dude who said his nickname was something like “Charlie Sherpa”? I don’t know. WLA Conference, Colorado Springs, CO. Sept 2018.

I got invited to the 2018 War, Literature & the Arts Conference at the US Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado in September. I was there to talk about what I learned from administering the Bridging the Gap conference. I was part of Randy Brown’s panel titled: “Into the Breach: Bridging the Civil-Military Divide via Literary Communities of Practice” with Lovella Calica and Andria Williams. This conference was another great opportunity to see some of the usual suspects in my growing mil-writing network. And to meet new and interesting writers. And to be starstruck as I’m standing there in the bar next to Brian Turner talking with him about music. And later standing in a different bar when Brian Turner gave us all a pep talk about encouraging other writers in the veteran writing space. Urging us all to help bring more voices into the fray. I got to attend seminars on maps and truth, two topics I’ve been stewing on lately. I listened to Robert Olen Butler talk about writing. This conference celebrated the 30th year of the War, Literature, & the Arts literary journal. The talk by Donald Anderson, the long-time editor, along with Brian Turner and Benjamin Busch was inspirational. (I’m going to say Brian Turner one more time. There.) Ostensibly, I was there to talk about my little two-day writing conference, but, as usual, I got more out of the trip than I gave.

Strange to be back at the Air Force Academy. Nobody even yelled at me to get my chin in.

Sure, maybe I didn’t make as much of “the content” this year. But maybe this year was about the writing environment as a whole and less about bylines. I did work on a project that spanned the calendar year. I’m going to deny myself the cheap thrill of talking about it until I actually make something of it. I’ve decided to label this year with a mantra that seems to be working for me so far:

2019: Less Talking. More Doing.

Some cool things:

– In March, I gave my first reading from my book at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, Wisconsin. I got to read “Lightning in my Chest” right next to an actual P-38 Lightning, the airplane that inspired pre-teen me to become a pilot. That was pretty damn cool. Thanks to Hayes Scriven for helping set that up.

– My book of poetry Hugging This Rock was nominated for a Northeastern Minnesota Book Award. It didn’t make the podium but it was cool to be in the room with so many local writers that care about books.

– But wait! The Going Coastal anthology (put out by Lake Superior Writers) won Honorable Mention for Fiction at the Northeastern Minnesota Book Awards. Proud that my story “The Heart Under the Lake” was included in that book. I wrote about steam-powered tugboats and seiches, so you know you want a copy. Thanks to Lake Superior Writers and Marie Zhuikov for putting that book together.

– Korkki Nordic Center published my story “The Korkki Relay” in the annual newsletter. I’m fond of this piece and when you publish where Sam Cook has published, well, then you’re somebody.

– I like Lake Superior. My poem titled “Henge” about the lake was included in an anthology put out by Split Rock Review called Waters Deep. The Great Lakes are just that and I’m proud my poem is included in that collection. Thank you to Crystal Gibbins.

2018 Writing Goals Review:

  1. Finish draft of Outside Duluth for publisher
  2. Finish draft of memoir.

No and No. On #1, I know a way forward, but I’m worried that my procrastination may have hurt me in an unrecoverable way. Failure on both counts shows me that I have a problem: I don’t know how to finish a large scale writing project. The practical matters of writing something book length and the mental horsepower necessary seem to be beyond me. Time management? Editing/writing tools? Laziness? Fear? All I know is that a 0% success rate is slightly less than I’m looking for.

2019 Writing Goals:

So, we try again.

  1. Finish draft of Outside Duluth for publisher
  2. Finish draft of memoir.
  3. Accomplish #1 and #2 to learn lessons on how to create a book-length project.
  4. Map essay, Memory essay and Poetry Project X. (Yeah, I don’t care if you know what #4 means)
  5. Read at least 2 books per month.

Top 3 Shmotown Posts of 2018:

  1. MyBill Koch Poster
  2. Grand Avene Nordic Center: Breaking Ground and Looking Forward
  3. You Can’t Handle the Truth: A Review of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

14 Pieces Published:

5 poems:

– 3 in print journals

– 1 in online journals

– 1 in anthology

Topics: 2 flying, 2 general interest, 1 outdoors


9 non-fiction:

– 1 in online journal

– 1 in ski center newsletter

– 7 in magazines

Topics: 7 outdoors, 1 military


6 publishers in 2018:

4 print publishers:

– 1 magazines

Northern Wilds

– 1 book publishers

Split Rock Review (Waters Deep anthology)

– 2 literary journals

The Freshwater Review

The Thunderbird Review

2 online publishers:

– 2 literary journals

The Wrath-Bearing Tree

WWrite Blog

2018 Reading List:

From “A Hard and Heavy Thing” up through “Fobbit”

14 books this year (less than both of the past two years). The fun part is I’ve met around half of these authors.

As part of my Do-It-Yourself edumacation, I reviewed a few of this year’s books to try to make myself smarter. No small task.

Crazy: A Review of Dien Cai Dau

You Can’t Handle the Truth: A Review of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

The Subtle Element of Surprise: A Review of Caught Between Coasts (Collected Poems 1989-2018) by Jan Chronister

Sisyphus on a Skateboard: A Review of To Keep Him Hidden by Ryan Vine

For the full list of books I’ve read, visit my Goodreads bookshelves.

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