If you happen to be in east Texas on September 17th and looking for some free entertainment, swing by the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University and hunt down my reading. Here’s the poster for the event (designed by Christine Butterworth-McDermott).Grace Poster

“Nirvana Playing Twister with the Smashing Pumpkins”

I’ve been playing with poems in graphic form lately, but have limited design talent. Fortunately,  I’m married to a woman who’s an illustrator and painter. She’s able to put on the page what I see in my head. It’s expensive for journals to publish poems in the form of color art, so I’ll be posting most of these experiments here. Here’s the first. (Hit the pdf link below to see it larger.)

Nirvana Playing Twister with the Smashing Pumpkins

Nirvana Playing Twister with the Smashing Pumpkins

Welcome to my site

Seeing as how I’ve been at this writing thing for quite a few years and finally have my first book of poetry to show for it, I’ve joined the already-far-too-vast blogging world. I know you’ve been holding your breath.

I considered calling this site “Beer, Milk, Bait, and Cheese” since three of those four things are essential to my life, having grown up in Wisconsin, but “John A. McDermott” seemed to cover more ground. What will you find here? Samples of my fiction and poetry. The occasional essay. I’ll probably get to chatting about music, books, and teaching, the things that consume my life. What you won’t find? Recipes. Auto maintenance tips. Politics. (I’m really going to rein it in there. Read my stuff and you’ll probably figure out where I stand.) I’m sure I’ll tell you stories, of the real and imagined sort. Or anecdotes about my kid. About writing. About my favorite bands. My wife told me twenty years ago that she couldn’t be fodder for my art, which I thought meant “no love poems,” but I realized recently that almost everything I write is a love poem. I’m a fan of a lot of things and a lot of people. It comes out in my work.

Also, as someone at the half century mark, I want new writers (who may be young or who may be older) to know that success, however you define it, doesn’t have to come at Year One, or Year Five, or even Year Fifteen. My last formal poetry workshop as a student was in 1988 when a Famous American Poet told me, lowly undergraduate, to try fiction instead of poetry because ‘all your poems tell stories.’ It might have been a nice way to say I wasn’t very good. So I wrote plays, a half a dozen unpublished novels, dozens of short stories, and some essays over the next two decades with small success, then took up writing poetry again about six years ago. It seems that was where I needed to be all along. So, here I am, “emerging” at 50 and feeling all right. Wherever you are, whatever you write (or paint or play or create), keep at it. This is all a marathon, not a sprint. Be patient. That’s my mantra. (I have to repeat it, again and again. I’m still learning.)

So, welcome. Browse through the samples of my work. If you like it, consider buying my collection. I’ll update as the mood hits me and as I have new work to share. Keep in touch and take care, y’all.




John A. McDermott, a native of Madison, Wisconsin, teaches creative writing and American literature at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, where he coordinates the BFA program in creative writing. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Southeast Review, and elsewhere.


Some day the teenagers in this cheery story are coming back in a novel or a series of linked stories. Until then, here they are in all their discontent. Fiddleblack has published some terrifying stuff (Clive Barker included). This story isn’t really horror, unless bored teens prone to violence and home foreclosures in California scare you (they do me). And skateboarding. There’s skateboarding in this one.