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“Every writer has advice for aspiring writers. Mine is predicated on formative years spent cleaning my father’s calf pens: Just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has to notice. The fact that I cast my life’s work as slung manure simply proves that I recognize an apt metaphor when I accidentally stick it with a pitchfork. . . . Poetry was my first love, my gateway drug — still the poets are my favorites — but I quickly realized I lacked the chops or insights to survive on verse alone. But I wanted to write. Every day. And so I read everything I could about freelancing, and started shoveling.”
The pieces gathered within this book draw on fifteen years of what New York Times best-selling author Michael Perry calls “shovel time” — a writer going to work as the work is offered. The range of subjects is wide,from musky fishing, puking, mountain-climbing, Iraq War veterans to the frozen head of Ted Williams. Some assignments lead to self-examination of an alarming magnitude (as Perry notes, “It quickly becomes obvious that I am a self-absorbed hypochondriac forever resolving to do better nutritionally and fitness-wise but my follow-through is laughable.”)
But his favorites are those that allow him to turn the lens outward: “My greatest privilege,” he says, “lies not in telling my own story; it lies in being trusted to tell the story of another.”