where the writers are
Dobie house

The Paisano fellowship is a coveted award for any serious writer, accepting only two writers per year to live in a secluded "ranch" house in the Texas Hill Country twenty miles outside Austin. If it's seclusion you want, you got it.

Here's page three of my application.

Why do you feel that you would be a suitable Paisano fellow?

I am a suitable Paisano candidate because the conditions are ideal for me to complete the balance my autobiographical novel about growing up in a Texas children’s home during the 1950s and ‘60s. My story is about Texas and a large portion of it must be written there for the sake of authenticity.

Although I spent the first thirty-three years of my life in Texas, I’ve been away long enough to lose some of the nuances of what it is to be a Texan, the colorful flavors of language, the rhythms of nature.   The rural location provides seclusion, which is ideal for production. I enjoy being close to nature. As a boy I canoed the upper Brazos many times. I’ve backpacked in the Rockies and the Sierras. Most of my poetry is about nature, including agriculture.

The location provides easy access to vital research. Two of my orphanage’s administrators have retired to the Austin area, and I need to spend significant amounts of uninterrupted time with them. Our conversations will be more relaxed and open in a one-on-one setting where we’re not pressed for time.

One of my key chapters includes a game of “Forty-two.” I haven’t played in over twenty years. Outside of Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, who in this culturally-deprived universe has ever played the game? I need to find some old men under a tree in a town square who can re-teach me “Forty-two” so I can write about it. I don’t want to be laughed at by people who really know how the game is played. How embarrassing.

My commitment to writing is well-established. I’ve dabbled in writing over the years while raising my family, but since October, 2009, I have committed my life to writing. I’ve completed thirty-four hours of postgraduate credit in Creative Writing and attended more than seventy hours of writing workshops. I submit regularly to literary magazines, perform at literary open-mic events and have been a member of a writing group for more than four years. I’m also a regular blogger about writing and literature at Redroom.com and Goodreads.com, where you will find examples of my in-depth analysis and discussions of the work of writers who have influenced me such as John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger and Raymond Carver.

I have proven my commitment to a powerful and important story about Texas that addresses a gap in the American literary canon—the orphanage. The orphan archetype has been exploited from time to time in our literature, but I’ve yet to discover a novel depicting orphanage life to any significant extent. This is my chosen setting and my characters and plot are authentic.

Though orphanages were common in the era before abortion was legalized, today they are rare in the United States. But the unclaimed children of the poor are as much a part of our heritage as Native Americans and other minorities. Instead of keeping them in the margins as a forgotten subcategory of America’s social fabric we must honor them with a place in our literature, because they exist, because of their struggles, because of the heroism of those who inspire them and make their lives more bearable, instilling the values that will sustain them through life. We ignore them at our peril; they make up the bulk of our prison population. We should trust that we will learn something valuable from their unheard voices.

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Best wishes for your acceptance...

Surely hope you are given this honor.  Iknow I would enjoy reading as you live with this reward and blog about it!  And I also want to know about the game Forty-Two.  I am among the culturally deprived.

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It's really straightforward if you've ever played Bridge (I'm told). Four people play, partners seated across. A hand is seven dominos (called "bones".) You shuffle and draw for "first bid" before dealing. Higest bidder declares trumps and has the lead.  When a domino is "led" you have to follow suit. Each round is a trick (4 bones each trick.) High domino takes the trick.  Tricks are one point and you get points for every domino carrying a count that is a multiple of five (e.g., a double-five is ten points.) The objective is to win enough points to make your bid.

Just to complicate things, the high bidder can declare "No trump," or "doubles a suit of their own" or "going low."  When "going low," the high bidder tries to avoid catching any tricks.

It's an engaging game that takes a great deal of skill. In college guys stayed up all night playing it on weekends.

Thanks for the good wishes.