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William Sheldon photo

William Sheldon

Interview photo

William Sheldon




















Author William Sheldon was born in Colorado, and moved with his family to Emporia at age 5. Sheldon spent much of his life in Kansas, but also lived in California. He received his Master of Fine Arts at Wichita State University. Sheldon is now an associate professor of English at Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas, where he teaches creative writing. His poetry has appeared in such journals as Blue Mesa Review, Flint Hills Review, Coal City Review and Midwest Quarterly.

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Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  

Bill Sheldon has conducted a series of interviews of Kansas Writers, and has transcribed the ones with Patricia Traxler, Elizabeth Dodd, Denise Low, and Stephen Meats.

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Writing Samples  

A Kind of Seeing

Uncle Walt walked
the old Crook place
blinder than a rock
swinging his stock cane
with spiteful accuracy
on the old cow
when she crowded
my lugging of the grain.
Or halted me with it
at the waist
“Watch that wire”
before I felt its metal bite.

Once he hooked me
ass-end over appetite
from a half-stack of bales,
and before my wind was back,
lifted coils
gently from the straw
and slid the diamondback
off into the whispering grass.
And to my “Kill it,”
his dusty voice,
“There’s worse than snakes.”

---from Retrieving Old Bones


The dog's ashes work their way,
deeper into the garden's soil.
This season I walk alone,
The dirt road winding
into darkening sky.
The horses no longer
come when called, and the wind
keens, "Winter is coming on."
The rising moon rattles the dry grass,
and below, the dead
continue their long work.

---from Rain Comes Riding

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Author Interview

  Q:When you we're growing up who influenced you as a writer?

A: My father taught English so it was always around our house. When I was little he'd come home and instead of 'The Cat in the Hat,' I was getting Rudyard Kipling. I think I grew up hearing those things,but I read the same people in school, Eliot and Stevens and I think those were the voices that I heard early on in my head. We went to California for awhile, but when I moved back I got a job at Hutch and ran into Stephen Hind, who was there, and started really paying attention to what he was doing. It was through him that I discovered Tom (Averill), Denise Low, Harley Elliott and, of course William Stafford , beyond the poems I knew from anthologies that I taught. I think that was a turning point because those were voices similar to the ones I'd known all my life, and I think it legitamized a voice that was mine, rather than trying to sound like someone else. I was influenced by Stephens and Elliott, and Williams Carlos Williams alot, but the real profound influence was rediscovering the local writers that were using a voice more like my own.

Q: What about Kansas inspires you?

A: I was born in Colorado, and lived in Montana when I was little. When we came to Emporia when I was five, and I grew up in Dodge too. And friday nights we'd cruise the main drag, which was Wyatt Earp, so we were 'dragging Earp,' and when we'd get to the end of that boulevard and I'd ask 'How much money do you have,' and we'd try to figure out if we had enough money to get to California. Eventually I went to California, and my wife and I had been along Highway 1, this beautiful coastal drive, and not loing before that we'd been to Jamaica, but we were coming back from visiting her relatives in Kentucky with those rolling hills,and we came through the Flint Hills in the evening time and I thought 'man I'm home.' And there's something about the sky, and I think it's that understatement, when somebody said that the grasslands where ninety-percent of it's underground, and I think that's the way poetry works for me when it's really working there's alot of it thats going on underneath. And I find that with Kansans too, as Tom (Averill) has pointed out to me that 'pretty good' is pretty high praise, and 'pretty darn good' is almost outrageous, we get giddy at that point. And I like that, and I think that's the thing about Stafford you realize it later, it's like 'oh, that's what happening in that poem,' but there's kind of an immediate entry that is that someone's out there holding out their hand, but it's only later you realize the full import of the conversation. But I think there's something about the land that's like that too, and you really have to look at it in a different way than you do if you're in Colorado, or Montana. And someone told Stephen Hind once 'you Kansans; no hype allowed,' and there's something about the land you have to look at it just right.

Q:What advice do you have for aspiring Kansas writers?

A: I think that those that really do will, they'll find themselves helpless in front of that desire to write. From my own experience it didn't hurt to go away and then return to see it with fresh eyes, and to look closely at it. As Kansans I think that there's a tendency to put ourselves down. And in a way there's something helpful in that, that you learn to edit your own work, but there's something that's dangerous in that also. I like Stafford's notion of you don't stand around and edit in one area, but that you stay in the current of your life and the writing becomes your life, or it becomes a way to experience your life. You write as a way of talking about your life, or rediscovering what's going on in your life in a different way. But also a way to stay in the current of your life. Stafford got up everyday at four in the morning and wrote and did a poem a day, which I confess I can't do. I'm more of a binge writer where i write in these chunks and then i get tired of my own voice, and then I go again. But the main thing is to open yourself up to whatever comes, and the thing I really like about Stafford, and what I pass on to my students, is that whenever he felt like he was getting writers block he'd just lower his standards. Because you have to write the good poems along with the bad poems, you can't worry about bad or good writing, you just have to write.

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Photo Credits  

Top: William Sheldon (Photo Courtesy Washburn University)
Middle: William Sheldon and David Becker (Photo Courtesy Thomas Fox Averill)
Bottom: William Sheldon (Photo Courtesy Thomas Fox Averill)

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