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Behind the Scenes: "Dune Shack, Cape Cod, 1973" in Hawaii Review

March 2, 2017

In Hawaii Review #85, I am proud to have a short story, "Dune Shack, Cape Cod, 1973," published alongside so many other interesting, elegant pieces of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. 

 

This story was yet another piece that lie dormant in my files for many years. I wrote a first draft of this while I was in grad school, at which time it had the much more cringe-worthy title of "Jesus of the Dunes" (and yes, a much more cringe-worthy heavy-handed plot to go with it). That draft was a product of my semester's work in a class called "Writer in the Archive." When I first moved to Massachusetts, I was really taken with the lore of the Cape Cod Dune Shacks, where writers and artists would occupy improvised structures for a season or two of work, then abandon them to the next artist or to the sea, whichever came first. I visited the Cape Cod Community College archives in pursuit of possible narratives about the Dune Shacks, but didn't really come back with anything too interesting. There was, however, one newspaper photograph that inspired me. 

 

 

The real-life Kip, whoever he is, pictured here, became the inspiration for the character Kip in "Dune Shack." And the details of the photo provided inspiration for the time, place, and atmosphere of the story. Despite having gone through many, many revisions, all the key elements of the story that first came to me through this photo from the archive remain in the published version. 

 

And I'm beginning to see revision as a way back to those initial moments of clarity. I have a habit of needing to try everything, to explore every possibility. In my writing process, that often means that early drafts take me further and further away from the first, while later drafts take me closer and closer back to that original vision. I would say that I need to learn to trust my instincts, but I don't think that's right. Developing a writing process isn't about developing the most efficient process, it's about developing one that works. So, if my process requires that I catapult out into orbit before returning back to Earth, so be it. 

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