Memoir, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, Narrative Essays & Journalism

Richard Gilbert

Richard S. Gilbert, photographed by Dinty W. Moore

It takes stamina and self mastery and faith. It demands those things of you, then gives them back with a little extra, a surprise to keep you coming.”—Tobias Wolff, In Pharaoh’s Army

Fiction works its way in, too, in reviews and consideration of technique. But this blog focuses mostly on reading, writing, and teaching narrative nonfiction. Narrative here means storytelling by whatever means of showing and telling. Certain preoccupations have emerged: style, structure, and use of self in nonfiction prose.

There are two literary cultures in America, academic and New York, and I bivouac between them. The camps are permeable, however, and their borders aren’t well policed. At night, desperate riders on dark horses going in both directions thunder past the picket fires.

For its first five years, this blog was called Narrative. As I explained in a 2013 post, I rechristened it in honor of my book’s transforming draft. Maybe the best compliment the blog and I have ever received came in from a fellow writer, though someone I’ve never met, when I wrote about getting a book contract in Spring 2013:

This blog, its urgency, steady fervor and insight into the art has earned you readers.—DeWitt Henry

My Memoir & Essays

For information about my memoir please visit my Book page. I have published essays in a number of literary journals: “Kathy” appeared in Brevity; “A Dry Year” was published in Chautauqua, whose editors nominated it for a Pushcart Prize; “Midnight on the Farm” appeared in Fourth Genre; “Remembering Paul” was published in Memoir (and); “Wild Ducks” appeared in River Teeth; “My Father’s Tractor” appeared in SNReview. On this site I have published excerpts of my memoir, including the story’s first Prologue and parts of the first Epilogue; other samples can be accessed under the blog’s “My Life” category.

Author Bio

Richard with lambs

With Freckles’ last lambs

Richard Gilbert worked in newspapers and university press book publishing, each for more than a decade, was a Kiplinger fellow in journalism at Ohio State, and earned an MFA in creative nonfiction at Goucher College. He has taught writing at Ohio State, Indiana University, Ohio University, and Otterbein University.  He currently teaches English and journalism at Otterbein, on the banks of Alum Creek in Westerville, Ohio. He is married to Kathy Krendl; they have two grown children, Claire and Tom.

Email address: richard.stuart.gilbert@gmail.com

The blog’s header collage is from “Gathered and Assembled” by my friend Jeff Kallet, an artist in Athens, Ohio. You can see some of Jeff’s art on Flickr.

Original writing on this site is Copyrighted by Richard Gilbert. It may be used freely, for noncommercial purposes, with credit.

40 responses to “About

  1. Exciting that you’ve found an online writing space! I like the header and think that this is a good place to share ideas on the subjects you love… -t

  2. John

    Thanks for including immersion in a Big Idea in the category of narrative.

  3. Interesting site – thank you! I have linked to you at my own site, up in Canada.

  4. eveningstar1

    Thanks so much for this rich array of information; I have been looking for just such a resource. Looks like my first step is to immerse in your blog!

    Flat Rock Creek Notebook

  5. Funny thing: I saw your blog thorugh Dinty Moore’s facebook page. We don’t know one another yet, but it occurs to me, we’re likely related. I’m the daughter and granddaugher of Robert Gilbert(s), and the elder Robert Gilbert, who hails from Wisconsin originally, had relatives named Richard, including, I think, a brother. And, you look enough like both of them that I thought I’d write. Funny thing: I too have ties to Ohio State, as I finished an MFA there two years ago. I now teach comp, lit, writing at Miami University in Middletown. How fun, if we’re related!

    And , love the blogging. Ah, narrative.


    • Laurel,

      We are 100 percent related as humans. And yes, probably as Gilberts too! That side of my family founded Taunton, MA, and were thick in Springfield and Boston. My grandfather went to Detroit and procreated there—my father, for one.

      OSU’s MFA program is really good from what I hear. Hope our paths cross in Columbus sometime at a reading or some such . . . Richard

  6. Rae

    I’m really pleased to have found this blog. I was looking for information about writing a memoir, which I am getting deeper into by the day. I really appreciate your insights and the collected thoughts of others that you’ve amassed here. I am sure it will prove to be very helpful.

  7. Beth Duffy

    Boo hoo. After reading your entire website on your Katahdin flock, I was disappointed when I clicked your contact link and discovered you no longer live in the Athens area (where we just moved) and raise sheep.
    My husband and I have done a lot of research on raising sheep over the last four years. We are ready to get started and were considering Katahdins. The information on your website agreed with our approaches and philosophy. However, one question looms: Why did you sell your flock? Do you currently raise any sheep?
    I appreciate any advice you might pass our way before we make the leap. Thanks.

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  9. Priya

    You’ve operated a sheep farm and are a memoirist (among other things). I love the apparent incongruity of the two! Congratulations on your success in both the worlds. I love your style.


  10. Ralph a humble shepherd

    Awesome Richard. I am so very glad to have found your BLOG and contact information. I trust you and Kathy are well. All is good here abeit wet. Lambs are hitting the ground. We started lambing on Saturday. Ralph

  11. Excellent analysis. Looking forward to more.
    ~Christin Geall

  12. Happy to have found your blog!

  13. Hi there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a difficult time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  14. First of all I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you do not mind. I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had trouble clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or hints? Thank you!

    • If you are losing only ten to fifteen minutes clearing your head, thank your lucky stars. Writing is seldom efficient. And you build your writing muscle by writing, increase your endurance. A nice writing session for me, when I am well into a project at least, is three hours. The first hour is getting back into what I was doing—reading, thinking, struggling. The second hour I begin to get into it and kick out some new work. The third hour, something magic sometimes happens, at least if it’s going to. The key is to know there will be bad days as well as average, good, and great, and don’t give up.

  15. Wow, amazing blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is wonderful, as well as the content!

    • Wow, Goz. My filter identified this as spam, which I’m sure it is. But I liked your compliments so much I’m approving it. I do wonder whether people follow your link and buy what you are selling after you post such comments. But then, your appeal to my vanity and unwitting appeal to my perversity worked. Not the first time I have approved spam, but rare.

      So, way to go!

  16. Hi! My name is Maggie Fry and I am just beginning my Goucher adventure. My mentor this semester is Leslie Rubinkowski, and she suggested I contact you (she also said to say “Hi” for her). As my thesis topic, I am exploring the tie that connects people to a piece of land: what draws people to a homesteading life and what they do in order to be able to stay there. I have lived on 20 -30 acres in NW Pennsylvania for over twenty years and I am interviewing people who have also spent many years homesteading.

    Leslie said that your thesis was also about your experiences on a farm. I read your prologue on your blog (I had never heard the phrase “groundhogs making coffee”; that’s great) and I see you raise sheep. I only have two sheep at the moment, but plan to get more soon (it is difficult to get a shearer to come if you have fewer than six and my back is not up to shearing any more).

    What books did you find particularly helpful while you were writing? Also, have you published your memoir yet? It sounded from the prologue as if you haven’t, but I could be wrong. I guess what I am trying to say is that I would be grateful for any advice you can give me during this exciting and terrifying time.

    • Hi Maggie,

      Nice of Leslie to put us in touch–Hi back to her.

      My memoir is now “under review” as they say. So it has been a long time getting there, six years, but that’s the average to write a publishable book.
      In my case, I really needed to learn how to write a memoir, which Goucher started, but the process continued. My first versions were insufficiently scenic and needed narrative threads from start to finish. Mine was more like linked essays at first but wanted to be a narrative. I did get the idea of strong acts from Goucher, especially from Leslie, but just had so much learning to do. And as you imply, it came from reading while I wrote and rewrote.

      There are some new, big farm memoirs out, like The Blueberry Years, The Orchard, and This Life is in Your Hands. Other memoirs that I Iove include Name All the Animals, Lit, Between Panic and Desire, and In Pharaoh’s Army. If you click on my blog on memoir or reviews or author interviews there’s a lot more.

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  18. annehodgeswhite

    I’m so happy to have found your blog. I’m four drafts, three years, and 30,000 words into a memoir — still so much to learn — and loving every awful moment of the writing and revising of it. My blog’s new — annehodgeswhite.com — and I’m still learning. I’ve already picked up several suggestions from your blog. Thank you, thank you.

  19. Great blog. So happy to have found it. I am in my last semester at Goucher working on a collection of essays. I blog at longwinded lady.com.
    Holly Sneeringer

  20. Just a note to let you know your blog made my Top Five for 2012. Blog post at http://marissamullins.com/2012/02/27/my-five-favorite-blogs-of-2012/ Keep up the great work! ~Marissa

    • Marissa!

      Thank you so much. I am truly flattered and honored. I think this is my blog’s first award. Your post is so generous, and I tried to comment and thank you there there but couldn’t figure that out. I’ll have to post something on my blog this week calling attention to your Top Five and to your honoring of Narrative.

      • Thanks for the kind reply Richard. I truly do love Narrative and hope my post will send you some additional readers. Your work is always a great pleasure to read! Thanks so much! ~Blessings

  21. Clayton Cormany

    Hi Richard,
    At long last, I’m visiting your blog and gaining some insight to the experiences that undergird your memoir. It’s interesting that the loss of your father’s farm didn’t sour you to agriculture, but apparently gave you an incentive to prove that a successful life could be built around farming. I look forward to reading your memoir when it’s published and learning more about the people and animals (especially Freckles) who impacted your life.

  22. Kylie Matthews

    I stumbled upon your blog via Virginia Woolf’s ‘Moments of Being’ and for this I will be forever grateful to her! Your writing is wonderful, Richard. While we live at opposite ends of the earth from each other (I’m in Australia) we appear to share many interest and similarities – journalist, book publicist. writer. I also grew up, in part, on a sheep farm – we raise merino sheep. I look forward to following you on your continued journey. Kylie

    • Kylie, thanks so much. As it happens, my daughter’s boyfriend is on a postdoctoral job in Bisbane, and my daughter is bound for there in December. So I’m learning much more about Australia and hope to visit next year. As for Woolf, I am glad your interest in her led you to me. I love her writing and just read A Room of One’s Own, which deeply impressed me.

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  24. Hi, Richard! Happy Thanksgiving. I just got nominated for “The Next Big Thing blog hop,” and in thinking of five other people whom I’d like to hear discourse on their newest WIP, I thought of you (as I understand it, you are still working on the memoir, and my curiosity is another excuse!) The ten questions one answers are on my site for today (November 23), and then you nominate five more people. Though I know that memoir and your site have a bit more gravitas and literary clout than my fictional pretenses, I altered the questions to suit my interests in answering, and if you want to participate, so could you (for example, in the question about genre, you might have a lot of condensed info on memoir to offer, or in the questions about actors to play the roles, you might consider a documentary, etc.) I think it would be very interesting to hear from you, and I hope you don’t mind my nominating you. Happiest regards of the season!

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  26. Dear Richard, It’s me, your favorite nuisance! I’m once again nominating you for an award, of a slightly different nature than the one before. It’s called The Versatile Blogger Award, and is a bit less arduous than the last one. The rules for it are on my blog at https://creativeshadows.wordpress.com/ . Note that in order to get the links to work to the other sites (including yours) I had to put it at “https” NOT “http.” I don’t know why this is, but they made some changes to the system a month or two ago, which may be the reason. I am sadly ignorant of computers, and usually I can get to your account using http://richardgilbert.me/ .Anyway, I wanted to nominate you just to indicate my continuing interest in your site. I hope you don’t find it too much like a chain letter!

  27. Pingback: What Makes a Memoir “Too Personal”? What Makes it Good? @ Shirley Hershey Showalter

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