Smoking With Tom Sheehan

Read the Story March 15, 2004

This piece has a campfire story feel to it. There’s such a lyrical quality around it. Is it meant to be read aloud?

It is indeed. In fact, I just received in the mail a huge 3’x4′ thank you note from my granddaughter’s kindergarten class after reading to them on Dr. Seuss Day. They even sent me a picture. Fables, stories, poetry are all part of the bardic oral tradition that still swings in our family. My grandfather John Igoe read Yeats to me, hours upon hours of it, when I was a mere boy. I hear the voices yet, both men. And I camped for close to 30 years, and twice or more each year, on the Pine River in Ossipee, NH, and stories around the campfire were always part of the fare.

What inspired this piece?

I had another story, contiguous if you would, “The Man Who Hid Music,” that my grandchildren enjoyed when I read it to them and which earned me a Silver Rose Award from the American Renaissance for the 21st Century (ART) and publication in their anthology of a dozen stories, reduced from the 1000 they had reviewed for the dozen awards. The grandchildren also appreciated four or five others, published since then.

What draws you to flash fiction?

Some days with me are poetry days, some are novel days, some are short story days, some are administrative or editorial days, and some days are the flash fiction days where I crowd time, experience and discipline into a kind of funnel to see what comes out the other end. I did 500 words yesterday describing a picture and it has provoked solid interest from a long-time English teacher, John Burns (63 years in the Saugus High English dept.) whowas co-editor with me on a 452-page book about our hometown (“A Gathering of Memories, Saugus 1900-2000”). He is a noble critic without a false punch in his armament. We borrowed $60,000 from the local bank for a book that had not yet been written, based on an eight-page proposal I had prepared. We sold 400 books the day of release, and have sold all 2500 printed, have put $45,000 in a self-sustaining account to give a scholarship each year to a deserving Saugus High School student. Three such students are now at Harvard, Boston College and Wheaton College. Much of that book, done in a year’s time, was flash fiction, which often times gets the upper hand on my drive and energy. It sure did for that sold year of composition.

What books are on your nightstand right now?

A thumbed, dog-eared, worn copy of Bill Bryson’s “The Mother Tongue,” reading at its very best. John LeCarre’s “Absolute Friends” whom former acqusitions editor for 6 publishers, friend Jim Smith, says is worth every minute of my time (I always listen to friends with good judgment on books, such as classmate Neil Howland who continually sends me favored notices of things read recently). Brian Ames’ “Smoke Follows Beauty.” Leslie Norris’ “Walking the White Fields,” an exquisite book of poetry.

Writing – cathartic path to self-discovery, exercise in futility or something else all together?

I have generally known who and what I was, from the youngest age; the ear was with me, laid out my life and loves, and it has found its way with my children. (Once I received a note from an editor asking if I was related to this guy Sheehan in Maine who had sent him the following first line in a poem about a ghost town: “For sixty years the sun tried to break in.” He knew the genes, that editor. It was my son Tim’s work). Finding the way to say what I was was the interesting part of it all, and that came with discipline. In high school, in the middle of a big football game, I called a timeout when my teammates were ragging me (How Much Do I Love Thee, Let Me Call Thy Play; Ballad of the Dumb Quarterback, etc., etc.). I said I am the boss, I call the plays, I have done so for three years, now lets cut the crap and win another game. We did.

About the Author:

Tom Sheehan had two books published in 2003, This Rare Earth & Other Flights, poetry from Lit Pot Press, and Death for the Phantom Receiver, an NFL mystery from Publish America. He has had over 500 pieces published on the Internet and in print.