By Scott Driscoll
On Friday afternoon, May 4, 2012, Nicholas O’Connell, M.F.A, Ph.D., spoke with me about his debut novel, The Storms of Denali (The University of Alaska Press, 295 pages, $23.95, summer 2012). A fellow writer, my friendship with him dates back to grad school days at the University of Washington. O’Connell is also the author of On Sacred Ground: The Spirit of Place in Pacific Northwest Literature (University of Washington Press, 2003), At the Field’s End: Interviews with 22 Pacific Northwest Writers (University of Washington Press, 1998), Contemporary Ecofiction (Charles Scribner’s, 1996) and Beyond Risk: Conversations with Climbers (Mountaineers, 1993). He has contributed to Newsweek, Gourmet, Saveur, Outside, GO, National Geographic Adventure, Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Sierra, The Wine Spectator, Commonweal, Rock + Ice, Image and many other places. He won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers and Washington State Governor’s Award for At the Field’s End and a 2007 Society of Professional Journalists Travel Writing Award for a story about climbing Denali. He is the publisher/editor of The Writer’s Workshop Review (www.thewritersworkshopreview.net) and the founder of the online and Seattle-based writing program, The Writer’s Workshop (www.thewritersworkshop.net). A fit, sturdy outdoor adventurist who looks younger than his mid-fifties, O’Connell keeps in shape playing soccer when not climbing or skiing. Still an active climber, O’Connell lives with his wife and three children in Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill neighborhood.
What inspired you to write a climbing novel?
I wanted to tell a story about the world of climbing because I find it fascinating that people risk their lives just to get to the top of a useless hunk of rock, ice, or snow. And as a writer I find it interesting when life pushes people to extremes. For sheer drama, this material is amazingly rich; it’s a vein not much mined in novels over the years.
Any one climbing novel you admire?
I really love Solo Faces by James Salter as well as his other work. Salter’s novel inspired me in its language, characters, and ability to communicate the inner world of mountaineering. I wanted to do similar things in my book. It’s a challenge because mountaineers often are strong silent types who suppress emotion. Sometimes it’s hard for them to find language to express what they live through. Salter does that in Solo Faces; he describes the emotions the climbers in his novel are feeling.
So in your novel you wanted to get at that emotion?
In a lot of climbing writing the emotion is flat and neutral even though you can tell if you’re a climber the feeling is there but just not expressed. I wanted to communicate that emotion in a similar way to Salter.
There are a couple of other books that helped me, too; Into Thin Air by John Krakauer and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson (a nonfiction account of a climber left for dead by his partner on a South American expedition). Both books are nonfiction, but I used them as a models.
Can you give me an example of what you used from Krakauer’s book?
The opening. Krakauer’s book opens in “medias res” (in the middle of things). Also, I liked the way Krakauer communicates the esoteric, insular world of climbing to the larger public. That was one of my goals. Both books used plenty of climbing vernacular and that’s also something I wanted to do.
Any examples of vernacular?
Just the way people talk: “We were spanked,” “SOL,” “baked.” A lot of terms are very specific to that world. Readers can identify with it if you put those words in. My ideal writing has a lot of detail and richness and evokes a particular world; you get to know the people and the place and learn something you didn’t know before.
Was it one of your goals in writing the novel, in addition to telling a story, to teach readers something?
It’s always one of my goals. I want people to learn something from my novel. It’s not a climbing manual, but like all good books, it should teach something about human nature. When pushed to extremes, how do people respond? Do they step up to the challenge? Or fall apart? This book isn’t afraid to explore that dark side of some of those responses.
This novel takes us climbing on the highest and coldest peak in North America. Why make Denali the destination in your novel?
For dramatic purposes I needed a trip that lasted a certain amount of time. I’d climbed the peak and it was such an intense experience. The experience of climbing it inspired the book.
How long did that climb take?
It took seventeen days. We had a relatively easy ascent, but a party from the Sierra Club we passed had a member, a woman, who fell into a crevasse. The rescue party couldn’t get her out. She ended up dying in the crevasse. It was very sobering.
In addition to the danger, the incredible beauty and quality of the light impressed me. It was an unusually moving experience. Part of why I wrote the book was to put this into words. And the climbing itself was challenging enough, making for great material.
Give me an example of a challenge you had to face.
Well, first the altitude. I’d been a strong climber, but on this climb we only moved up about 1,000 feet per day to avoid altitude sickness. A couple days we pushed it harder, one day from 14,000 feet up to 17,000. I could barely stand up; I dumped my gear in the cache and it took all the effort I could muster just to stand up and walk back down.
So the altitude was a big challenge. And also the cold. It’s the coldest peak I’ve ever been on. I had sweaty feet one day and I failed to change one of my socks. The moisture conducted enough heat away from my foot that I ended up getting frostbite. It was a relatively minor injury, but I got a “bleb,” a black blister on my right big toe. So that was one of the ways the experience marked me. Authors write about experiences that mark them. That’s why Denali was such a great topic.
How many were in your party?
We had about ten. It was a guided group from Rainier Mountaineering. This was early in my climbing career. I ended up going with a guide service because to do it myself would have been a big challenge. This was only my second time I’d done a guided climb, but it proved to be a very good idea. They were very well organized and knew how to deal with the cold and the height. And they knew they could do it. When you look at Denali from the base camp it looks impossibly high. Base camp is at 7,000 feet and the top is a little over 20,000 feet. The distance is 16 miles but it’s very intimidating. It’s like another world. Going with a guided party was psychologically a big help.
Did everybody make it? Was everybody okay?
A couple people didn’t summit, but everyone came back okay. One guy pulled a calf muscle and he couldn’t go to the top. Another guy had to wait below the summit while the rest of the party went ahead. Everyone else made it to the top, which is impressive; it’s a demonstration of Rainier Mountaineering’s competence.
So the guy who had to wait, was he having altitude sickness?
Yes, as I remember. A lot of people had stomach problems or mild altitude sickness, but we were amazingly lucky. Fifty percent of those who attempt Denali don’t get to the top. In some years it’s less than that.
Is there a high death rate on Denali?
There is a high death rate. European and Asian climbers especially tend to underestimate Denali. They equate it to any other 20,000-foot peak, like in the Himalayas or Mt. Blanc which is about 15,000 feet and they figure another five thousand feet doesn’t make much difference. Denali is so far north it’s much colder and stormier than these other peaks. Some climbers are not prepared and so there are a lot of deaths, which is unfortunate and in many cases avoidable. I hope my book will serve as a cautionary tale, to think carefully before you climb it.
Who do you imagine as your audience for this book?
I see two main audiences. Other climbers are the obvious audience. I think they’ll enjoy it because it’s authentic and rich with mountaineering details. But it’s also a thriller so it should have the same audience as Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, or Joe Simpson in Touching The Void. It will appeal to armchair mountaineers and the hardcore climbing groups.
And, people who just enjoy a good adventure story should like this book.
Yes, people like that, too.
When did you start writing the novel and how long did it take you to complete it?
I got the idea in 1982 when I climbed Denali. I earned my MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in 1985 so I had fiction writing on the brain. After I graduated, I wrote a very preliminary sketch of the book. I was working on my PhD in Literature at the University of Washington and writing for magazines so I couldn’t focus all my attention on this novel project.
In the early 90’s I started writing it chapter by chapter. It presented some big difficulties, learning to write fiction as opposed to nonfiction. I was well versed in writing journalism for magazines. Fiction was a new challenge—inventing characters, coming up with a plot, scenes, and use of concrete detail. Things I had only brushed up against in writing nonfiction I had to really confront when writing fiction. It took me a while to figure that out. To publish it I knew had to finish the whole thing, but it was hard to commit to it fully, so I worked at it on the side while I was doing nonfiction. Eventually I had a draft, a huge accomplishment, which I reworked in my writing group. They were immensely helpful in figuring out how to turn this experience into a novel.
Then I started sending it around and got agents involved to pitch it. This went on for three years or so and it got very close but nobody bought it. Some places wrote notes saying, “We liked this book, but…” I read every criticism and went back at the manuscript to see how I could improve it. I did three iterations of this and it became a much better book, sharper, more dramatic, more focused. Finally, I approached the University of Alaska Press on a whim. They got back to me quickly and said they were very interested.
You say they got back to you quickly?
Yes, and as you know, when that happens it means they‘re interested. I emailed them a couple chapters and a pitch letter. James Englehardt, the acquisitions editor, asked me to send the rest of the manuscript and said they were really interested. I hadn’t been hearing that a lot. So I asked my agent, Elizabeth Wales, to send it again to the New York houses. She did and there was interest, but nobody bit on it. The University of Alaska Press really wanted it, and they had a deadline, so I decided, “What the heck? I’m going with them.”
Is there any of your experience as a climber that you deliberately built into one of the characters?
This book is all I that know about climbing and a lot I know about human nature. It’s a product of my climbs and my relationships with climbing partners, wife, and friends. The book is full of the appreciation for climbing and the mountains. That was part of what I wanted to express, that intense love of these places. Some of that was gleaned on the trip to Denali, some on later trips.
What about the characters themselves? Anything about them that was drawn directly from your experience?
Wyn is based on one of my personality characteristics. I was more like Wyn when I was younger. I would push things and was not very patient. I took that aspect of my personality and put that into Wyn. He’s a risk taker and that was true for me. I was more measured than him but I definitely pushed the limits.
What about Lane and Al? Any parts of them based on something personal?
Yes, one of the ways I improved this book was by thinking of these characters as having some of my own traits. Somebody like Lane is a control freak as well as a very caring person. I have some of those aspects to my personality and I’ve seen them in friends and folks involved in the mountain rescue world. You think you can control things and you’re angry when you can’t.
When you say control, you mean being more cautious? Reducing the risk factor?
You sometimes think if you come up with a plan, nature will back off. Anybody with an institutional bureaucratic mentality shares characteristics with Lane. While I don’t have anything against this mentality in some contexts, it can be dangerous in high risk situations. Lane’s cold, exhausted, and he falls back on what he knows and that turns it into a disaster. Implicitly there’s a commentary on that. I love mountains but I know how unforgiving and harsh they can be. You’d better be willing to change your plans, because if you don’t, that’s when you die.
John and Wyn have an argument near the top about the right way to go up. Why does Wyn win that argument?
Wyn wins the argument because he wants it more than John does. John is still dependent on Wyn. They’re a team. Implicit in this is a message, You work these things out; you stick together. You might disagree with your partner, but you negotiate an agreement. Those two are very closely tied. They don’t always like it, they get irritated and pissed off at each other, but they compromise and stay together.
Well, but, Wyn does get his way.
He does in that instance. But later, John actually is the one who wants to go to the summit. Whereas, Wyn, having notched a new route, doesn’t think he has to slog to the top, but it means a lot to John, so in that instance, Wyn goes along with John.
So you’re saying Wyn notches a new route, but isn’t interested in the summit?
It would be nice to get to the actual summit, but for some climbers like Wyn it would be a foregone conclusion. At that point it’s just a walk-up, according to Wyn.
Why does it matter so much to John?
Because that’s his goal. Most climbers are motivated not by fame or glory but by very specific goals. It’s an incredible achievement to do a new route on Denali. John lives in a different world than Wyn does, so actually getting to the physical top is more important for him. For Wyn, the most important thing is to do the new version of the route. He also wants to get to the top, but his motivation to do this isn’t as strong as John’s.
And John’s motivation to get to the top is because he failed once before?
John’s motivation to get to the top is to reclaim part of his identity. He tells Jill early in the book, “I’m a climber; that’s who I am.” To do the route would make him a climbing god in his eyes and also to his customers at the store. Climbing is an insular world and that kind of achievement is recognized.
So he does it to salvage his own sense of self worth?
Yes, that’s a good way of putting it. Having children can take away part of your identity. John’s conflict is that being married and a father has taken over his sense of self. He’s fighting to salvage the climber side of himself.
What keeps him pushing on when there is potentially fatal risk involved? John has a family, he owns a store. He’s invested in that world. His piece of the American Pie is that, not climbing. Yet he takes this risk. Why does he do that?
John is a conflicted person. He has more than one goal. Part of what I’m saying in this book is it’s okay to have more than one goal, but he needs a way to reconcile that conflict. As Faulkner observed, great fiction is about the human heart in conflict with itself.
Wyn’s not conflicted. He’s a climber. He’ll go to the next peak and the next. John will go back to his marriage and family. He will have to reconcile these two worlds so he is a more interesting character because he sees more sides to things. And, I’m like that myself and I know other climbers with similar issues.
Use yourself as an example. You’re a climber, you have family. That altitude and degree of cold you experience doesn’t seem like it’s in the normal world. What makes someone keep going back to it when it’s risky and not very pleasant?
Some aspects of it are pleasant or at least attractive. It’s eerily beautiful, for one thing. I have a high metabolism. It’s not unpleasant if I have the right gear. There’s a sharpness in the air that invigorates me and gives me a mental clarity it would be hard to get any other way. To some extent, life for most people is either a mountain, or it’s a beach. For me, life is a mountain.
Would it be fair to say you and your characters feel more alive when out there at these extremes?
Very much. All these characters come to life while climbing. Al is bored with his job; he wants a new challenge. He’s divorced and normal life is under a cloud for him. Climbing is his escape from that world. Lane is not as motivated as Al, but he’s an athlete, he likes the challenge. He’s a firefighter. The allure of danger appeals to him. All of these people are adrenaline junkies. They enjoy risk.
Would you say that’s generally true of climbers?
Yes, that’s mostly true. It’s true for me; I enjoy the risk. I love it. But you have to be careful. It’s a dangerous narcotic.
I guess I associated that with Wyn. He seems to need high doses of that narcotic.
Oh, yeah. Wyn is on the high end of the scale. Lane is on the low end. Al is probably near the high end and John is in the middle. But if you graphed them with relation to the rest of the population, they’d be off the chart.
I like the line to the effect that it’s just misery and you have to endure it.
You mean climbing as the art of suffering? That’s Polish climber Voytek Kurtyka’s formulation. There’s an element of truth to that, but these guys come to life as a result of the climb. After suffering comes the resurrection. That’s one of the reasons they do it.
Did writing the book Beyond Risk: Conversations with Climbers help you with this novel?
Yes, I was privileged to interview Reinhold Messner, Walter Bonatti, Riccardo Cassin, Sir Edmund Hilary, and some of the most famous names in climbing. It was apparent they weren’t crazy or reckless. They were extremely calculating and very energetic, vibrant people, just bursting with ideas. That was something I admired and wanted to treat fictionally.
Was any one of those climbers a particular inspiration for this book?
Messner was an inspiration. I wanted the climbers in the novel to be brutally honest with each other, to the point they argue and get into fights. Messner has been accused of doing these things, yet such honesty is needed on a climb. Messner was definitely in the background when I thought about Wyn as a character. Messner is actually Wyn’s hero. Wyn is partly based on Messner.
You know the saying, There are old climbers and there are bold climbers, but there are no old bold climbers.
Messner isn’t doing much climbing anymore, but Messner is tireless. He was a member of the European Parliament from the Italian Green Party. Still, the maxim is mostly true. As climbers age, few of them take on these risky activities.
Wyn is on a quest to find a new route. In the real world of Denali are there genuinely new routes to be found?
There are new routes. Usually somebody finds something harder to climb. The easy routes are picked off first, the harder routes later. As standards increase, instead of going up that gulley, they go up the ridge or up the face. It takes someone like Wyn, who knows the possibilities of climbing, to pull it off. It must be someone familiar with what’s been climbed before and what hasn’t. The particular route I describe has not ever been climbed completely. I imagine after this book comes out somebody will try it.
So, it’s a real route?
Yes, it’s a real route.
How do you know that? Did you look at maps?
I looked at maps and consulted a friend, Jon Waterman, who is the climbing expert on Denali.
So he picked out the route?
I knew the route, but he confirmed that it was unclimbed.
The prologue takes us to a point where the party splits up, the major turning point. Why open the book with a passage that could give away a key plot point in the story?
It’s basically a strategy. I wanted to start the novel in a place of great uncertainty so I put the main character on a ridge without making it clear whether or not he made it to the top. By putting the character in a dangerous spot, I figured readers would be hooked. That’s why I opened it that way.
The risk is that you give away too much of the drama up front, so I wondered why you’d made that choice. Was that recommended by one of the editors?
No, it was my idea. This is a common opening for outdoor adventure stories. For example, I wrote a story about going down the Colorado River on a raft. Our raft hit one of the biggest rapids, Hermit Rapid, and the raft bent in half and one woman almost went overboard but I pulled her back in by the ankle. I opened that story describing hitting the rapid and then went back in time to describe how we got there. It’s an old device; Homer used it in the Illiad. I’d used it enough that I felt I knew how to manipulate it effectively to bring readers into the story without giving away too much or confusing them. I don’t want to call it a formula, but it’s characteristic of that genre. So a lot of my readership, as soon as they see the first page, they’ll think, “Wow, that’s cool. I want to read more.“
John’s wife, Jill, doesn’t want him to go on this climb. She fears he’ll take lots of risks. How important is her resistance to John? Is he truly conflicted over that, or is it just opposition he has to get past?
Jill’s resistance is critical for him and for the novel. He wants to keep the two worlds in his life. He does not want to be a climbing bum like Wyn. Nor does he just want to be a husband and father and normal nine-to-five business guy. He wants to put the two together. Partly, this is my dilemma so I identified with it, but I also like the dramatic possibilities. I wanted the character pulled back and forth like a piece of taffy. Choices are not simple for such a character. He has to work to resolve these difficulties. That makes for a more interesting novel and a more interesting life. Not that you always want conflict in real life, but complexity keeps things interesting.
If Jill had said, “No, you’re not going and if you do we’re getting a divorce,” how would John have reacted?
That’s difficult to know. He says if Jill had drawn a line in the sand he would have walked out on her, but I’m not sure he could have. In any event, it would have caused a huge rift in his marriage. Maybe they would have gotten divorced because the need to climb is built into John. Even if he had stayed home for this particular trip, he’d have had a huge amount of resentment that could have led to divorce.
This was one of the hardest things to write in this book. I didn’t want Jill to be a total harpy. And I didn’t want John to be a heartless schmuck. It was a balancing act between the two of them. This took the longest time to figure out. Jon Waterman’s critique helped me solve the problems with their relationship. He asked me if there was a reconciliation scene on John’s return. There wasn’t and I thought, “Wow, how’d I forget to put that in?” So I wrote the scene to close the circle.
Do spouses of climbers just have to live with this? Is this a reality they have to accept?
Potential spouses of climbers should choose carefully who they’re marrying. If this person really does want to go off and do these things, that has to be factored in. I do believe marriages are a compromise. You have to reach agreement as to what the other can do. I don’t think the other spouse should have to put up with anything, but there’s a degree of flexibility that is necessary to make a marriage work when climbing is involved.
At base camp, does it occur to anyone that this is a bad idea?
John is worried. He’s only half buying into this new route. Wyn knows much better than Kim (the base camp manager) what’s actually up there. He’s confident enough in his assessment that he knows more than she does. Wyn lives and breathes climbing. That’s his world. His weakness is he’s too mono-maniacal and that can destroy the camaraderie of the team.
Near face camp, they discover the cache pillaged by ravens, food stolen, clothes wet, John feeling altitude sick. At what point does John set aside his misgivings and feel truly committed to Wyn’s route, or does he ever feel truly committed?
John vacillates. On a good day, he’s very committed. On a bad day, he reassesses, “It’s a stupid idea. Why am I here? I want to be back with my family.” Several times he thinks seriously about leaving. But he doesn’t want to be the weak link and doesn’t want to let Wyn down. He’s not a quitter. Even though he’s not fully committed to the goal, he will stick with it at least to the next camp.
Would you say there is some pride involved?
Definitely. You don’t want to be the weak link in the group, the one who makes everyone turn around. It takes so much time and effort and money to get up there. If you turn around, it could mean the party as a whole fails. And John’s done that before. Wyn has ridden his butt over it so John is unwilling to do that again. One of the things I hoped to get across is it’s a buddy book. John and Wyn can berate one another and yell at each other, but ultimately they preserve the relationship. That’s one of the things I enjoyed exploring.
In Chapter Twelve, below the buttress, facing serious opposition, when failure is a serious possibility, why doesn’t John try harder to persuade Wyn to go around rather than climb the buttress?
John does push back when Wyn wants to go up the Buttress. John tries to convince Wyn this is a stupid idea, but he loses. Wyn is driven and more persistent, so Wyn wins the argument and John gives in. John would never abandon Wyn. They’ll go through it together, or not at all. He doesn’t have a good attitude about it, though. Wyn wanted to free climb the buttress. John puts in pitons, so they end up climbing it in a less risky, less prestigious fashion.
Less prestigious among climbers? It would make a big difference?
Yes. A free ascent is more prestigious than an aided ascent with pitons.
So John does get a compromise?
Wyn grumbles about it, but he doesn’t push the issue. John gets a compromise.
Just before the top, conditions are especially awful and they’re trapped in the tent for a day and a half or so. They both have done this before. They know how awful it can be. Why do they keep putting themselves back into this situation?
Both guys are very driven people. They have an intense drive to succeed. Their goal is to do this incredibly risky but very cool route on Denali. They have this intense need to choose lofty, difficult goals. It is an athletic event in a way, like throwing a javelin a certain number of yards. It involves that same kind of drive and competitive instinct. But it’s even more focused because you’re putting your life at risk, too. If you lose, you’re gone. Climbing attracts people like that.
On the way down, Al and Lane choose a different path. It’s an important moment in the story. It’s certain Al and Lane are going to their deaths. In that moment could Wyn and John have done more to stop them?
That’s the moment when the party splits up. It violates the cardinal rule of climbing: keep the party together. Accidents happen when parties split up. John and Wyn do everything they can to dissuade Al and Lane from leaving. They even get into a fight. Wyn tackles Lane and they wrestle. It’s odd and bizarre. But I wanted to make clear they did everything they could to stop these guys from leaving. Afterwards, Wyn doesn’t feel much guilt. He figures these guys made that decision, and that’s why they bought it.
John feels a lot of guilt because of who he is, because he asked them to go on the climb, and because he’d climbed with Al before. The book ends with him replaying that scene over and over in his mind without achieving any resolution. It’s hard to make these choices; you have to live with the consequences which are not always pleasant. Someone outside the situation would say John did everything he could, but John will feel responsibility for the rest of his life.
How does this change John?
He realizes what’s really at stake. Death registers for him. And it reflects back to his marriage. He could have gotten divorced. He’s very glad that didn’t happen. He regrets that he couldn’t keep the climbing party together, but now he’ll get a second chance with his wife and family.
Will this experience convince him not to do any more risky climbs?
That’s a good question because I’m thinking of writing a novel about the two of them climbing Everest. John would probably decide not to go, or only to go to base camp. He has no need to define himself as a high-end climber. He doesn’t need to another trophy. Now he can go back to his normal world.
At the funeral in Seattle, Lane’s father is upset and wants to blame John for Lane’s death. How does John feel about that?
He takes the blame because he feels very guilty about it and because of who he is as a character. He also sees the appalling grief he could have inflicted on his own family. This is another way he changes, by seeing the effect of death on people around him. He’s a lot less likely to attempt something risky like this in the future.
So he’s not going to climb Everest?
Well, you never know with characters.
So, what’s the next project?
I have a few climbing related ideas. I might work on the novel about Everest, but first, I need a breather. A novel is a huge commitment of time and effort. Meanwhile, I’m working on a book of climbing and skiing stories as well as doing some freelancing.
Is the Everest novel just an idea at this point or have you done any research for it?
I’ve written a couple chapters. There’s actually a sequel built into this book. Wyn does have this permit so it’s a logical next step, after his leg is healed. The publicity from the Denali climb allows him to fund his next expedition.
I’ve been to Everest base camp. I’d go back there if I decide to write the novel, not to climb, but to visit the place and breathe in that atmosphere again. There’s a lot of interesting material with the Buddhist culture and the weirdness of the high altitude mountaineering community and all the people wandering around. Everest can be such a zoo, which is not always pleasant for climbers, but can make for great material. We’ll just have to see. Right now, I’m just savoring the feeling of having finished this book.
Scott Driscoll, M.F.A., teaches the fiction writing sequence for The Writer’s Workshop and the Introduction to Magazine writing class. He has won numerous Society of Professional Journalists awards, was cited in the Best American Essays, 1998, and won the University of Washington’s Milliman Award for Fiction, (1989). Driscoll was awarded the University of Washington, Educational Outreach award for Excellence in Teaching in the Arts and Humanities in 2006. While finishing a novel, he freelances for Alaska and Horizon Airlines magazines, The Seattle Post Intelligencer, Poets and Writers Magazine, Image Journal, the Seattle Review, and Far From Home, an anthology of father/daughter essays published by Seal Press. His fiction appears in Ex-Files: New Stories About Old Flames (Context Books) as well as in a number of literary magazines, including Crosscurrents, Cimarron Review, Gulfstream, The South Dakota Review, Oxford Magazine, American Fiction ’88 and so on. Driscoll completed his M.F.A. at the University of Washington. He has been teaching literary fiction for UW Extension since 1993. He has also taught creative writing at Western Washington University, as well as for Seattle’s Writers In The Schools (WITS) program and The Writer’s Workshop.