About Lee Martin

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So far Lee Martin has created 373 blog entries.

Stories Are All Around Us

Henry James, in The Art of Fiction, advises writers to “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.” Stories are all around us. We just need to take the time to listen and look. They come in a variety of ways. Sometimes a person catches our eye, and we think, “hmm, I wonder what it’s like to be him or her.” I lived next door once to a family who had a daughter about ten years old, a girl who was eccentric to say the least. I saw her come down her porch steps once in a [...]

By | 2018-05-14T04:35:38+00:00 May 14th, 2018|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Three Principles for Short Story Writers

Once upon a time, I lived in a place where a man had a habit of lying in the street at night, looking up at the stars. He was a troubled man who sometimes sat on his front porch, having conversations with whatever voices he heard in his head. Often these conversations were violent ones, with all sorts of foul language and sounds that weren’t human—wails, howls, and groans. At first, his behavior was shocking. Then, as the days and weeks and months went on, it became the regular come-and-go. He was just the man across the street. One night, [...]

By | 2018-05-07T06:54:31+00:00 May 7th, 2018|Uncategorized|4 Comments


Last night, we celebrated another graduating class from the MFA program here at The Ohio State University with a gala reading and reception. It’s that time of year when thousands of MFA grads across the country come up against that question, “What’s next?” The truth is that for many of those thousands of grads the answer is difficult. After the years spent studying craft and teaching in return for tuition remission, many wonder how to put the MFA degree to work for them in the real world. When I finished my MFA in 1984, I ended up in Athens, Ohio, [...]

By | 2018-04-30T07:59:49+00:00 April 30th, 2018|Uncategorized|4 Comments

I Never Intended to Write a Novel

I was a young writer at a time when the short story enjoyed an era of great popularity, an era of Raymond Carver, Bobbie Ann Mason, Jayne Ann Phillips, Ann Beattie, Tobias Wolff, Richard Ford, et. al. Bill Buford, then editor of Granta, coined the term “Dirty Realism” to describe the work being done in the short form. I’ve never given much thought to why this aesthetic made such good sense to me, but I suppose it may have something to do with the fact that I came from a blue collar world where the economic circumstances of one’s life [...]

By | 2018-04-23T08:58:59+00:00 April 23rd, 2018|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Shh!: The Penultimate Moment before the End of a Narrative

Around five o’clock one evening, an emergency notice came on my phone, advising me to seek shelter immediately. Then the tornado sirens began to wail. My wife Cathy and I gathered up our orange tabby, Stella the Cat, and headed to our basement. The rain came and the hail. Then, everything went still. The wind calmed. The rain stopped. “Here it comes,” I said. Because I grew up in the Midwest and have been through more than one tornado, I know that often just before the funnel cloud touches down an eerie calm sets in. So it is with a [...]

By | 2018-04-16T08:40:29+00:00 April 16th, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Ego and the MFA

It’s MFA thesis defense season here at Ohio State, which always reminds me of my own MFA experience at the University of Arkansas. So much of my education as a writer was a process of becoming aware of how much I didn’t know. At the time, it was often discouraging to realize just how humbling learning this craft can be. Now, in retrospect, I see my acceptance of my ignorance as a necessary step in my development. It’s been my experience, both personal and observational, that writers sometimes enter an MFA program too full of themselves. How can anyone blame [...]

By | 2018-04-09T07:24:26+00:00 April 9th, 2018|Uncategorized|8 Comments

Deciding on an MFA Program

Here at the beginning of April 1, I think about the rapidly approaching deadline for those of you about to make a decision on which MFA program to attend. For those of you with more than one offer to consider, I’m re-running this post from five years ago, one in which I offer some advice to help you make your choice. Follow the Money There are plenty of programs (like the one here at Ohio State, for example) that will fully fund you during your graduate study through fellowships, teaching assistantships, or a combination of the two. You’ll receive a [...]

By | 2018-04-02T07:31:32+00:00 April 2nd, 2018|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Are You Sure about That?: The Importance of Uncertainty

Each morning at the local YMCA where I work out, a group of retired men gather at a table to drink coffee and to express their strong opinions about everything under the sun. They’re certain about their beliefs, too certain it seems to me. I have a hard time trusting those who believe they know everything there is to know. To me, such beliefs stand in the way of the appreciation of the nuances of complex issues. Furthermore, such certainty makes little room for the opinions of others. Such certainty shuts down conversation and appeals only to those who share [...]

By | 2018-03-26T08:21:06+00:00 March 26th, 2018|Uncategorized|4 Comments

All Alive to Each Other: What Stories Have in Common

’Tis the season for March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament is in full swing, leading to the championship game and the annual commemoration of this athletic competition, the song, “One Shining Moment”: “That one shining moment you reached deep inside/One shining moment, you knew you were alive.” I can think of no graceful segue from these song lyrics to Sherwood Anderson, and Winesburg, Ohio, other than to make the leap and invite you to follow. In Anderson’s story, “The Untold Lie,” two farm hands are husking corn in a field at dusk. Suddenly the younger man confesses that he’s “got [...]

By | 2018-03-19T07:59:45+00:00 March 19th, 2018|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Happy Birthday to Brevity

I was very fortunate to be on a panel celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the fabulous online journal, Brevity, at this year’s Associated Writing Programs conference. I joined Beth Ann Fennelly, Daisy Hernandez, Heather Sellers, Ira Sukrungruang, and founding editor Dinty Moore for a reading of flash creative nonfiction and some thoughts on the genre itself. As I was in my post last week, I was interested in talking about how my flash cnf is so often tonally driven. When I write essays like the ones in Brevity—essays of fewer than 750 words—I sometimes use a communal voice to capture [...]

By | 2018-03-12T08:35:04+00:00 March 12th, 2018|Uncategorized|4 Comments