Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Visit with Duluth Author and Pilot Eric "Shmo" Chandler (Part 2)


Reminder: Tomorrow, Thursday evening, Eric will be the featured reader at Beaners' Third Thursday Open Mic event. (It is actually called Spoken Word Open Mic, but I'm reminding local blog readers that the Open Mic occurs every Third Thurz.)

Speaking of readers, the Reader's Best of the Northland Party is also tomorrow evening. The event begins at 5:30 at the Depot Railroad Museum.

EN: It's apparent that you are a goal-setter. You accomplished plenty in 2016. What are you aiming to accomplish as a writer in 2017?

Eric Chandler: First off, Tina Wussow invited me to do a reading at Beaner’s Central on January 19th, so my goal is to not screw that up. First time I’ve been invited to do something like that, so I’m excited.

I’m going to the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference in Feb 2017 in Washington, DC. I’ve never been to this national writing conference before. Randy Brown invited me to read some of my military-themed poetry as part of a panel at the conference. Randy Brown (AKA “Charlie Sherpa,” author of the Red Bull Rising blog based in Iowa) is a mil-poet and came up with a program for the AWP called “Citizen-Soldier-Poet: Using Poetry to Bridge the Civil-Military Gap.” There’s a lot of discussion about the widening gulf between civilians and military in this country. I personally view that gap as a threat and see my military writing and poetry as a way to correct it.

I’m about halfway through a draft of a memoir. It involves how my family was affected by 9/11. I plan to finish the first draft this calendar year and edit it.

I’m developing a workshop for military-themed writing to be held in Duluth in late spring/early summer of 2018. I view it as my way to help writers (either military or civilians) who want to tell stories about service in uniform. Part of my personal desire to help bridge the civil-military gap.

I also have an expanded version of my Outside Duluth e-book in the hands of a publisher. They’re considering it for publication in print. I plan to get that manuscript into the hands of several other publishers to see who bites.

I do a lot of writing for Northern Wilds Magazine out of Grand Marais. Shawn Perich is the editor and we have a good back-and-forth arrangement with ideas. I’ve got three pieces with him in the upcoming February issue: one about skis, another about the Duluth lighthouses that were added to the National Register of Historic Places, and a third about my first date with my wife when we hiked to a Buddhist temple in the mountains of Korea. I plan to write a lot of different stuff for Northern Wilds this year. Now that I look back on this list of goals, I feel scared. Thanks a lot.

EN: Of what does your writing discipline consist of?

Chandler family, hitting the trails again.
EC: Lack of discipline is a better way of putting it. I’m an airline pilot, so I have a lot of dead time on the road. When I land somewhere, I get to the hotel for the layover, I go running, I get a meal, and then I open my laptop and try to make forward progress. Technology and the internet are really something. The desktop computer I use at home has exactly the same setup as the laptop I use on the road. I use Dropbox to store my working drafts electronically. That way, whether I’m home or on the road, I can open up a project and get to work.

When I’m at home, it’s harder to sit in isolation and peck away. If it’s a school day, I make progress between the time the kids go to school and lunch with my wife. After that, it’s time for some exercise and then the kids come home or go to practice and the dog needs a walk and supper happens and all hell breaks loose. Those few quiet morning hours are the only chance for writing. If it’s a weekend day at home, I don’t even bother to try to write. Too much going on. That’s when we try to do things as a family. I guess I’m generating fuel for writing on those days. I write about those adventures later when I can.

EN: You say you intended to go to Colorado at one point. How did you end up in Duluth?

EC: I left the active duty Air Force in 1998 and my wife left the Air Force in May 2001. We were living in South Ogden, Utah on 9/11. Before that day, we planned to go to Colorado where I planned to be an instructor at my airline’s training center in Denver. My wife planned to go to culinary school in Boulder.

After 9/11, I figured I’d get laid off from my job flying the 737 based in San Francisco. I looked for a job in the Air National Guard. We were Mr. and Mrs. Civilian and I needed to find work. I called my good friend in Duluth and asked if he needed a crusty fighter pilot who hadn’t flown the F-16 in three years. The 148th Fighter Wing hired me and took in my family. They saved our bacon and I’m very grateful. It was like a slow-motion car crash, but I eventually got laid off from my airline from 2003-2006. By the time I got laid off I was already flying the F-16 again in the MN Air National Guard in Duluth. It was a blessing to have a flying job when so many airline pilots didn’t. Even more of a blessing when I got laid off again, thanks to the recession, from 2009-2013.

EN: As for Fate, this IS a great region for people into Outdoors so do you feel at home here?

EC: I’ve never been happier anywhere. My wife was an Air Force brat and went into the service herself. I was a Forest Service brat, if there is such a thing, and also moved around a lot growing up. I went around the world in the service, too. Between the two of us, we’ve lived in Utah, Alaska, Korea, New Hampshire, California, Arizona, Colorado, Michigan, and Washington, D.C. Duluth, Minnesota is the best place we’ve ever lived. And now, it’s the place that we’ve both lived for longer than any other place in our lives.

When we first got here, it was a big deal when we saw someone we knew when we were out running errands. We’d come home all excited and tell each other. Before, when we were only in one place for three years at a time, we never got to know a town well enough to feel at home. Plus, many of the places we lived were giant cities. We never saw anybody we knew out on the town. Now, it’s remarkable if we go out and don’t see anybody we know. Not seeing friends is the exception. We’re in our 5th decade on earth and this may seem like a small thing, but to us, it’s a new and wonderful experience.

You can learn more about Eric Chandler at his blog, Shmotown.
His eBook, Down In It, is available here. You'll find his Outside Duluth on this page.

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To all you readers who are writers: Write on.  To all who are reading this and are not writers, thanks for being here. And have a great day. 

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