Read Arthur Wayne Glowka’s Experience with Traditional Publishing vs. Self-Publishing and his decision to self-publish his novel, Trout And Other Mythical Beings

To self-publish or not to self-publish, that is the question.

I started self-publishing creative works in 2012. I took that step after three decades of experiences with traditional publishing and with editing of one kind and another. It took ten years for me to publish my first two books with traditional publishers, but work on both books prepared me for self-publishing.

At the age of ten, I heard my father recite the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales as part of a speech for a Dale Carnegie course. In the speech, my father claimed that any time he felt low, he remembered his high school teacher recite those lines in an exaggerated rhythm with her large bosom bouncing up and down. That memory cheered him up. I found Chaucer’s rhythm intoxicating, and right after writing a dissertation on the rhythm of Lawman’s Brut (the first English work to treat King Arthur), I began working on a book on Chaucer’s meter. It took four years to write the book and four years to find a publisher. The small academic publisher I found wanted either a subvention from my institution for printing costs—or for me to provide camera-ready text. As things turn out, my department at Georgia College had begun to make camera-ready copy of The Flannery O’Connor Newsletter on a tiny Mac, and the secretary tutored me in desktop publishing and let me use her Mac to paste up my book. The book was finally published, it is cited in scholarly articles, it is in university libraries, but it never enjoyed enough sales to meet the minimum amount of $35 for a royalty check.

While I was writing my book on Chaucer, I was also developing a collection of essays illustrating various ways of teaching students about the dialects of American English. I convinced the Committee on Teaching of the American Dialect Society to sponsor the collection, and the chair of the committee, a long-time journal editor, signed on as a co-editor since I had no experience with editing. However, at the end of that ten-year process, I had learned more about editing and negotiating with authors and copyeditors than I ever wanted to learn. Although my little Chaucer book never earned a dime of royalties, the dialect book, which was published in a teaching series by the Modern Language Association Press, earned enough in royalties over two years to pay for all the bills associated with the birth of my first child.

To help with the expenses of raising a child, I assumed some duties in administration. My most interesting assignment was editing a faculty research newsletter. Since I knew something about desktop publishing, I abandoned the mimeograph format of my predecessors and produced an off-set publication with interviews and photographs. Soon I had a team of students working with me as interns. Also as part of my duties, I revived a student research journal and produced camera-ready copy for printing at the University of Georgia.

The one thing then led to another. After posting some observations about new words on the new email discussion group of the American Dialect Society, I was asked by the editor of its journal, American Speech, to become the editor of its column on news words, which had been published with regularity since the beginning of World War II. I edited that column with the help of dozens of students for eleven years.

But in the meantime, I had begun working on a verse translation of Wace’s Roman de Brut, an Anglo-Norman verse translation of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s legendary History of the Kings of Britain. This book was also a ten-year process. It took four years for me to translate Wace into English verse. Finding a traditional academic publisher took two years; getting that publisher to issue a contract took another two years of revisions and additions. In the frustration of dealing with a publisher that kept delaying and requesting more, I threatened to publish the translation on a web site through which I could get $1 per copy. However, my department chair calmed me down and begged the dean for subvention money. Finally, 175 copies of the very beautiful and very expensive book were printed. I won two cash prizes for the book at Georgia College, but I never received one cent of royalties. I am thankful that the translation is frequently used in scholarly articles and books, but the process of getting this book to press soured me on traditional publishing.

And now we get to self-publishing. In 2004, I took a trip to Texas to see family and revisited the Alamo for the first time in nearly two decades. I re-read the very moving letter of William Barret Travis (the young commander of the Alamo surrounded by the sizeable army of the battle-hardened Santa Anna), bought some books about the Alamo, and began writing about the subject in my car one Sunday morning while my kids were in Sunday school. I imagined I was the dying James Bowie telling stories about his life to other Alamo defenders on the night before they all died. I wrote in Chaucer’s rhyme royal stanza. I pecked at this poem for another six years, and when I had nearly two hundred pages of material, I sent out samples to university publishers in Texas. An editor at Texas Christian University loved the sample and the idea of multiple narrators but feared that the press would lose money on an epic poem. She asked me to re-write the book as a prose novel. My crazy lifetime dream had been to write an epic poem. The dream was all but shattered. I froze. I quit writing for months. And then I saw that a local high school student had published a novel in Kindle form for her senior project. I investigated Kindle publishing. It was easy. There was a template for the paperback. At that time, the Kindle version could be published as an html copy of the Word document. All fired up, I finished my epic, The Texiad, in three weeks and got it published in Kindle and paperback shortly thereafter. On the Kindle dashboard, I could see that I had sold 36 copies on the first day. I was going to get royalties at the end of the next month and every month thereafter. I could promote the book with free copies. At one point, over 5000 people had downloaded free copies of my Kindle book. I had become an epic poet.

I then got very busy re-writing may favorite medieval romances as erotic tales with surprising twists. Sir Gawain succumbs to seduction and has to marry the Green Knight’s “wife,” who is actually an old elf woman made to look young by magic. Chrétien de Troyes’ Guinevere is transformed into a dominatrix who goes into ecstasy watching Lancelot bleed. Free Kindle copies of The Humiliation of Sir Lancelot were downloaded 800 times on the first day. I took “Eliduc,” one of The Lais of Anglo-Norman poet Marie de France, and turned it into a much longer and detailed story–and turned the other lais into rhyming songs that Eliduc sings to the accompaniment of the harp. Europeans are fond of these romances.

At about the same time, I got involved in play writing, and I published copies of the short plays that had been performed. Nobody much buys plays, but bound paper copies are very useful for actors and directors who are staging a play–and who might want a great souvenir signed by the author.

In my last years at Reinhardt, President Mark Roberts and I started the Reinhardt University Press by opening an institutional Kindle Direct Publishing account. Through that account, we began publishing Sanctuary (the interdisciplinary arts magazine) and James Dickey Review. We also published a student athlete’s history of Reinhardt University football. Sanctuary and JDR provided my first experiences with editing creative writing. They were time-consuming additions to an already busy schedule of teaching and administration, but they were fun. All of my previous experiences with editing and formatting made the work possible.

So, when it came time to publish Trout and Other Mythical Beings, the decision to self-publish was an easy one to make. I have been self-publishing and self-editing for nearly a decade. But I am trying something new with self-publishing this time. In consultation with a former student of mine who makes his living selling Western romances, I have decided to pay for advertising. I am not much of a gambler, so the principles of advertising make me very uncomfortable, but my wife, who has worked in marketing, has been advising me to have patience with the process and the risk. So, I am on a new adventure in publishing.

TO PURCHASE TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS:

Get your paperback copy of TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS by visiting Bear Book Market at 21 North Grove Street, Dahlonega, GA, via Bear Book Market’s online store at Bear Book Market, from the author by emailing him at a_glowka@yahoo.com, or via Kindle E-book.

Want to meet the author, attend a reading, and hear some banjo playing? You do. You sure do! Here’s your opportunity: Etowah Valley MFA Program Summer Residency Reinhardt University Waleska, GA July 10, 2021, 8:00 pm: Trout and Other Mythical Beings: A Reading from the Arthur Wayne Glowka. Directions

More about Arthur Wayne Glowka:

Photo by Beth Glowka

Arthur Wayne Glowka (born in Weimar, Texas, in 1952) grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in the shadow of the Alamo, and heard heroic tales about its fall from an early age. The Irish nuns who ran his elementary school directed him to books about King Arthur and Robin Hood, and his study of Spanish in high school has led to a lifelong fascination with Latin America and Spain. He studied English at the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., 1973; M.A., 1975), where he fell in love with medieval tales told in their original languages. Before pursuing his doctorate in English at the University of Delaware (English, 1980), he spent two years away from formal study to fish and to plunder libraries and used bookstores for books on fishing and a wide variety of other subjects. His scholarly publications have treated metrics, the legendary history of Britain, Geoffrey Chaucer, dialectology, lexicography, and Flannery O’Connor. He has served as an editor for academic journals, most recently James Dickey Review. His creative publications include an epic about the Texas Revolution (The Texiad), a series of medieval romances retold for contemporary readers, plays, and a novel (Trout and Other Mythical Beings). He was Professor of English at Georgia College (1980-2007) and the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt University (2007-2020). He retired from teaching and administration in July of 2020—but not from writing, woodworking, music, and hiking.

A Conversation with Arthur Wayne Glowka, Author of Trout And Other Mythical Beings

Photo by Beth Glowka

DM: In my review of your novel, Trout And Other Mythical Beings, I mentioned that Harry was on a mythic quest, that he was a sort of mythic hero. What made you use the mythic quest structure for Trout And Other Mythical Beings?

AWG: I have been interested in myth in general and the heroic quest in particular since I was a child. I have been interested in the heroic quest and medieval storytelling ever since a nun handed me a big book on King Arthur in the third grade. In the ninth grade, I read Edith Hamilton’s Mythology with a great deal of fascination, and I assigned it in world literature classes I taught until I found a more detailed book for my classes.

I generally use the word “myth” as a story that explains the nature of the world we live in —or wished we lived in. As Harry Mature knows, myths are often not realistic accounts of every day experience. Myths entertain us with imaginative but unrealistic objects or creatures like a bird reborn in fire or a sword that confers superpowers on the rightful bearer. When I hear people condemn a story or a belief as a “myth,” I chuckle to myself. We all “believe” in myths of one kind of another. Myths can scare us; myths can help us understand things. Ultimately, we think we understand very little outside of our favorite myths. I could easily go on about all of my favorite mythical heroic quests in world literature, but let me focus instead on Harry Mature.

Harry goes on a heroic quest to experience things that have been part of his fantasy world. And he discovers that actual experiences with these things have uncomfortable physical and emotional consequences. Alcohol and tobacco can make you sick. Hunting by yourself can be dangerous and is not like hunting on a television show. Fishing is nothing like reading a book about fishing. Serial online dating comes with consequences and experiences not detailed in the old Penthouse letters or the erotic tales of Anaïs Nin. Grief can be sadness, but more likely it is anger, frustration, and fear. The refuge in being “comfortably numb” is ephemeral and ultimately just a trick of the psyche. You can’t hide from your feelings; they will sneak up on you and bite you in the ass.

Harry wants a number of things, but he needs a friend and sense of who he really is. For far too long, his wife, his child, and his job told him who he was supposed to be. At the end, he still doesn’t know who he is, but he has learned who he isn’t. Along the way, there is a string of mythical beings to consider and abandon: the Hemingway hero who drinks without hangovers, the macho tobacco smoker with no health concerns, the mighty stag memorialized on a wall, the lunker trout (and the naiads who put them on hooks), the hot hook-up (Erica Jong’s “zipless fuck” in Fear of Flying), the Valkyries, and Odin. Defying death, Harry finds escape on his motorcycle, but as we all know, a motorcycle can lead to a very gruesome death on a lonesome highway.

DM: Interesting last name you chose for Harry—Harry Mature. Is it because he’s had to act mature, too mature, and almost dead, all his life or he because rejects maturity for the first time in his life? Will you talk about the name choice?

AWG: When I was a kid, the actor Victor Mature was a popular leading man in the movies—like Samson and Delilah. So, the last name, “Mature,” has heroic (and erotic) connotations for me. Ultimately, I chose “Harry Mature” because, as the character Karen humorously notes, it sounds like the name of a porn star. Otherwise, I was searching for a name that would make the main character a “type,” in the 17th-century sense. Harry is a type of old man. He is not every old man, but an old man you might meet somewhere. “Mature” is one of the euphemisms marketers use for “old.” Working with the handicaps posed by aging, Harry tests his limits, trying to see what is still left of himself. I once asked a male friend about when male children reach adulthood and start to make sense. He said, “Around age 31.” I asked a female friend the same question, and she said, “Some of them don’t make sense till age 65.”

DM: Talk to me about the cover and how it came to be.

AWG: Intending to order a proof copy early one morning in March, I published the book by accident with a trial cover that was, frankly, pretty stupid. It featured a yellow caution sign warning of a curvy road. A helmeted man on a motorcycle was flying up the curvy road on the sign, and a trout was leaping out of the sign into the clouds. My friend, with marketing advice, hastily made another cover for me with a helmeted man on a motorcycle riding up a stream out of which a trout was leaping. I republished with that cover, but I did not like it. Then I made a black-and-white cover with a muscle-bound woman dressed up like an opera Viking. Someone I know bought a copy with this version of the cover. It occurred to me on a walk that I needed a photo of a woman with a trout. My search on iStock turned up the startling picture of the young woman emerging from the stream with a fish in her mouth. The iconography was perfect. In the novel, Karen says that the trout resort has kids in the river putting fish on hooks for seminar participants. So, the fish and the young woman are mythical beings referred to by the mythical Karen.

DM: I think some of the Harry’s thoughts about Kat and his grandkids are hilarious, but I could imagine some readers taking issue if some of those inner thoughts were taken out of context. Have you had any comments from your readers?

AWG: People who take things out of context and blow them up on social media or news broadcasts are going to do what they are going to do. In every age, Puritans of one kind or another ban works of art and inadvertently make those works more appealing to curious consumers of art. Some of my favorite books have been banned at one time or another.

Harry Mature and his granddaughters illustrate what people in the 1960s called “the generation gap.” Young boomers grew out their hair, experimented with drugs and sex, tried living in communes, protested a war, and had fantasies of changing the world by putting LSD in the water supply (see the movie Wild in the Streets). The intentions of the young boomers were good, but their assumptions about the nature of the world were naive and adolescent. The boomers grew up and became the parents they hated. They worked, they invested, they voted for corrupt politicians, they tried to stop the sale of music celebrating violence and sex, and they fought their own wars. Now the boomers have grandchildren who, to the boomers, look and sound like creatures from outer space, and the grandchildren think their boomer grandparents are ignorant, immoral, capitalist racists. My grandparents regarded me with horror when I was a teenager; I also regarded them with horror. But we all eventually grew out of this phase. Before they died, we ended up being great friends honoring one another.

Harry Mature sees his grandchildren through the lenses of what he reads in the news about college campuses. The granddaughters see him through the lenses of woke-ism, which they have picked up in over-simplified terms from older adolescents. However, when Harry shows up on a motorcycle, they welcome him, because they want to ride on his motorcycle and because they like rebelling against their mother, who thinks her father has lost his mind. Harry and his granddaughters are allies in their efforts to move past Mary’s death.

One of my neighbors, who is retired and has grandchildren, found Harry’s thoughts about his grandchildren and their thoughts about him as the funniest passages in the book. However, I am sure that some young people will find the book disturbing for any number of reasons besides Harry’s inner thoughts. When I was in my early teens, an older friend of our family lost her husband of nearly forty years and started dating shortly thereafter. My parents would twitter with her about her dating adventures with men at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio, and I was viscerally repulsed upon learning that old people might actually be having sex. I did not understand at the time how geriatric sex could be possible, much less desirable for anyone, even the participants. But I was a teenager who wanted some green-and-white striped bellbottom pants, a psychedelic VW bug, and a Summer of Love.

DM: What was the inspiration for writing Trout and Other Mythical Beings?

AWG: I can blame neither a muse or any kind of spirit for the book, but one day after a lot of musing about retirement, the indignities of growing old, and the increasing number of deaths among my contemporaries, I hit upon the name “Harry Mature” for the main character and wrote a version of the first paragraph. I sent it to close friends. One wrote back immediately and said he wanted to read that book. Around the same time, he also confessed about how much he wanted to buy an Indian motorcycle. So, buying a motorcycle was added to Harry’s bucket list of “things he needed to do.” The other friend urged me to write the novel in my upcoming retirement.

And that is what I did. I retired on July 1, 2021, and wrote 12-15 pages every week for the next six months. Before starting, I thought about the fantasies that led me to various kinds of dead ends: thinking a motorcycle would be a chick magnet and glamorizing smoking and drinking as a young teenager; extensive reading about and sizeable investments in trout fishing in my early twenties and late fifties; obsessing about deer hunting in my fifties; imagining I could be a kind of Don Juan or Fabio with online dating profiles after divorces. In reality, I saw my friends get injured on motorcycles. I discovered that trout prefer canned corn to artistically tied flies. Deer hunting resulted in a freezer full of sausage that no one but me would eat–and in a messy divorce. Online dating eventually led to a wonderful marriage, but as my wife is fond of saying, she had to “kiss a number of frogs” to find me. (I’ll take the fifth on that claim for myself.) In short, I structured the novel as a series of attempts to realize fantasies. In each case, the reality is a comic version of the fantasy. With that plan, I knew pretty much where I was going with the book on the first day I sat down to write.

DM: What did you enjoy the most about authoring this novel? What were the challenges?

AWG: I have written a number of plays, and I have always enjoyed writing dialogue. Once I have a sense of who characters are, it is easy for me to get them to talk. I had the most fun writing about Harry’s encounter with Karen on the fishing trip. She’s annoying, sexy, crude, and energetic. She is attractive and repulsive at the same time. Harry is like one of those reluctant men in the stories of D. H. Lawrence. Forces beyond his control take over

The sections on hunting and fishing were the hardest parts to write. I once taught a course on writing concerned with hunting and fishing, so the bar I set for myself in regard to technical details presented me with challenges. However, the two sections that caused me the most anxiety were the Christmas dinner at Kat’s house and the New Year’s Eve party at Harry’s house. It took me months to figure out what would happen when Harry showed up at Kat’s. Finally, it occurred to me that the granddaughters would soften their attitudes in regard to Harry if he had a motorcycle that their mother hated. The motorcycle would be useful to their teen rebellion against their mother. The problem with the New Year’s Eve party was sustaining the celebratory activities beyond a paragraph. Drunk people are funny and interesting when you yourself are drunk, but they are not all that interesting to write about while you are sober. However, I feel that I succeeded in creating enough intensity in the partying to make Kat’s screeching a very significant moment.

DM: You did a lovely job of balancing comedy and tragedy. Most readers will be laughing throughout Trout And Other Mythical Beings. But there were some moments–the Georgia National Cemetery scene got to me–that hit you in the gut. Did you find it hard to balance those two extremes?

AWG: Not at all. Until that scene, Harry has been so focused on his bucket list that he has avoided dealing with his feelings about his wife’s death. The narration did not detail his experience at the visitation and funeral. He had no experience there that I wanted to report. He was focused on that glass of whiskey waiting for him at home. Harry would not have been able to pay attention to the proceedings. He just wanted a glass of whiskey.

However, Harry can finally face death at The Georgia National Cemetery, a place that can have a powerful effect on visitors. The marble headstones in their neat rows are too numerous to count. Each columbarium holds a staggering number of drawers. Heavy reminders of death surround you there. If you try to read the names and dates of each memorial you pass, you soon feel exhausted. The sameness of the headstones and the niches emphasizes the commonality of everyone: we will all die. All things will pass. The marble will melt in the acidic rain. The woods will someday return to those fields. The mountains will be washed to the sea. In that place, at that time, Harry can cry when his new friend cries. A cleansing occurs. Harry allows a friend into his life. He is ready to face his daughter and his granddaughters as a new person with a new costume and motorcycle, a symbol of his freedom and his acceptance of his own inevitable death.

One way or another, he will have to die. Like the two anti-heroes at the end of Easy Rider, he might fly through the air in a fiery blaze of glory—or just ride off into a landscape rife with bluebonnets as he goes off into oblivion.

It is fitting that Harry presides as Odin–the one-eyed Norse god who was hanged on the gallows for nine days—at a party called “Valhalla”—”hall of the slaughtered”—while Shield Maidens dance to “The Flight of the Valkyries”—the winged “selectors of the slaughtered.” The dead warriors in Valhalla fight every day and drink every night until the time when the great wolves will eat the sun and the moon and the Frost Giants will come in a boat made of dead men’s fingernails to destroy the gods and men before a new world arises to replace the old.

DM: What are you working on currently? What’s after Trout And Other Mythical Beings?

AWG: My most immediate concern is cleaning up a paper on the children’s mother in Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” I am scheduled to read it at a conference later this month.

One reader of Trout has asked for another encounter between Karen and Harry. For the last week or so, I have been thinking of sending Harry to New Mexico to visit with a much older friend whose partner and wife of fifty years has died and left him enough curiosities to fill a museum—and an urn full of her ashes. The last wish of the deceased was to have her ashes cast to the wind from the top of the hill in Los Angeles with the big HOLLYWOOD sign. With Debbie tied up at work with her new job, Harry is free to offer to take his friend to California with the ashes. Along the way, they could visit with old friends whose once starving commune has become a large profitable marijuana farm tended by old hippies. Harry and his friend could stand on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and have fear and loathing in Las Vegas and Tijuana before they get to Los Angeles just when the sun comes up on the Santa Monica Boulevard. They’ll discover that the Hollywood hill is protected by fencing and then make a mess of themselves and the ashes by miscalculating the timing of waves along Venice Beach. I think I could start writing in July when I normally hide indoors to avoid the heat.

Beyond that project, I would like to make a collection of my plays. I often think of doing something with my boxes of lyric poetry, but they will probably stay in the attic as a problem for my heirs and assigns.

DM: Thanks so much for spending the time answering my questions and I wish you much success with Trout And Other Mythical Beings as well as your other adventures—I know you have many!

TO PURCHASE TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS:

Get your paperback copy of TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS by visiting Bear Book Market at 21 North Grove Street, Dahlonega, GA, via Bear Book Market’s online store at Bear Book Market, from the author by emailing him at a_glowka@yahoo.com, or via Kindle E-book.

Want to meet the author, attend a reading, and hear some banjo playing? You do. You sure do! Here’s your opportunity: Etowah Valley MFA Program Summer Residency Reinhardt University Waleska, GA July 10, 2021, 8:00 pm: Trout and Other Mythical Beings: A Reading from the Arthur Wayne Glowka. Directions

More about Arthur Wayne Glowka:

Arthur Wayne Glowka (born in Weimar, Texas, in 1952) grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in the shadow of the Alamo, and heard heroic tales about its fall from an early age. The Irish nuns who ran his elementary school directed him to books about King Arthur and Robin Hood, and his study of Spanish in high school has led to a lifelong fascination with Latin America and Spain. He studied English at the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., 1973; M.A., 1975), where he fell in love with medieval tales told in their original languages. Before pursuing his doctorate in English at the University of Delaware (English, 1980), he spent two years away from formal study to fish and to plunder libraries and used bookstores for books on fishing and a wide variety of other subjects. His scholarly publications have treated metrics, the legendary history of Britain, Geoffrey Chaucer, dialectology, lexicography, and Flannery O’Connor. He has served as an editor for academic journals, most recently James Dickey Review. His creative publications include an epic about the Texas Revolution (The Texiad), a series of medieval romances retold for contemporary readers, plays, and a novel (Trout and Other Mythical Beings). He was Professor of English at Georgia College (1980-2007) and the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt University (2007-2020). He retired from teaching and administration in July of 2020—but not from writing, woodworking, music, and hiking.

Trout and Other Mythical Beings by Arthur Wayne Glowka: A Review

“He was ashamed to admit he was glad he felt relived that his wife was dead. But he would have been dead if he had shown up on the door step with rife and a full set of camos (“good to-10 degrees Fahrenheit”) and a bottle of deer urine.

Arthur Wayne Glowka

I met Arthur Wayne Glowka (who goes by Wayne) when he was the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt University where I received my MFA in Creative Writing. He’s a former English professor. He also an actor, director, playwright, and woodworker, often found exploring the woods with his wife Beth. He plays too many instruments to list, and actually handcrafts some of those same instruments. He “retired” last year, and I use quotation marks around “retired,” because if you know this man and see what he gets himself into on a daily basis, it looks nothing like retirement. I’m a Generation- Xer and I find his adventures a little exhausting. His energy would compete with the energy levels of my Millennial and Gen-Zer friends. Glowka is a true Renaissance Man. He is someone who ventures down many rabbit holes and now has written an extremely amusing novel about a very dark subject—the loss of a spouse—called Trout and Other Mythical Beings.

At the tender age of sixty-five Harry Mature’s wife, Mary, his wife of forty years, passes away and Harry doesn’t skip a beat. He heads straight to the liquor cabinet Mary locked up twelve years ago. Harry is a lot like Mary’s locked liquor cabinet, though—so much repressed joy and too long neglected needs. He’s been locked away from all his vices, but he promptly makes up for lost time: scotch, cigars, guns, ammo, shooting range, deer hunting, online dating, trout fishing, women, sex, sex, sex, and you better believe it, a motorcycle. Every day is a new adventure in male freedom. Trout And Other Mythical Beings is hilarious with a dry note of sadness. Instead of grieving, Harry fills the void with everything he’s missed out on being in an unhappy marriage.

Readers of the feminine persuasion may balk initially reading some of Harry’s thoughts towards his deceased wife, daughter, and grandchildren. He has a lot of disdain for his family. After he kills a deer, Harry’s daughter Kat leaves him a note on his front door cancelling Thanksgiving and Harry reflects on his two granddaughters: “They made self-loathing comments about white privilege, and planned to attend exclusive colleges in the Northeast, where they would major in victim studies and marry the sons of corporate CEO’s—unless they decided to be lesbians or “men that menstruate.” It’s harsh, but Harry and Kat are both stereotyping each other. Mostly, this is the case because neither know anything about the other; they make assumptions. Everything went through the mother. Plus, in Harry’s eyes Kat, the antagonist in this story, is seemingly more concerned with keeping him on the straight and narrow. She leaves “to do” lists that have to be about the worst “to do” list of all times:

He saw a list of things for him to do: go to the courthouse and change the car title; provide copies of the death certificate to banks; financial planners, insurers, and governmental agencies; liquidate assets to pay what was owed to the hospitals, doctors, labs, the undertaker, and the florist; order a head stone (Kat had circled the one she liked and specified the desired wording); and get the house cleaned up (she had attached a card for a housecleaning service).

I was reminded of when my own father passed away. The day after he died, I was at the DMV taking care of a similar “to do” list for my mother. She didn’t ask me to do this. It was my way of avoiding his death, and I so understood Kat’s position, but reading Glowka’s novel I was also annoyed for Harry. It made me see another side of how people deal with death. Kat treats Harry like a noncompliant child. You’ve got to feel sorry for a guy who has worked all his life, finally retires, and his wife gets breast cancer and dies soon after the diagnosis. My sympathies for him are less about Mary’s death, however, and more about Harry never having a voice or a say in his own life. Though the tone is matter of fact and Harry comes off a little heartless, I think anyone who has been in a relationship—a relationship that should have been killed and buried years ago—can relate to Harry’s feelings. Death has made Harry come to life and he wants to experience everything all at once.

Harry is on a journey of self-discovery pursuing his wildest dreams and even some boyish ones such as hunting and catching that mythical trout. The trout is a very real trout, but it also symbolizes everything that has been denied him. He goes on these mini adventures, and though he’s bumbling through much of it, he comes out on top. In fact, Harry pretty much gets everything he sets out to get—a buck with massive antlers, a beautiful trout, as well as a slew of sex-crazed women throwing themselves at him. Harry is a real horndog and so are the women he meets. Prepare to blush a little. But Trout and Other Mythical Beings has the quality of being a tall tale, so much so, you wonder if the trout he caught is as large as he describes it to be or the woman as beautiful and unable resist him as he perceives. Men have been lying about the size of the fish they caught, amongst other things, since the beginning of time and I suspect Harry is no different than any other man when it comes to sizing questions. Mythical heroes are not ordinary men and while Harry may not seem your typical mythical hero, in his mind he is.

Trout and Other Mythical Beings has all the elements of a mythical quest: tragedy, comedy, irony, and romance. Though Harry completes each quest at the end of each experience he discovers he isn’t completely satisfied. He wishes for a friend, a companion, someone to share in his accomplishments. He never thinks of his wife, though. She wouldn’t approve of any of his new life choices, nor would his daughter who is essentially a replica of his wife. He never really stands up to his daughter. He simply ignores her (much to her chagrin) and does what he wants anyway, piling up adventures and chasing the next dream.

Some of the best and hysterically funny scenes are when Harry discovers online dating. He goes after everything like a man who has been newly released from prison and definitely a man who missed the sexual revolution tucked neatly away in a conventional marriage: “There was hunting, and there would soon be fishing too, and there was something he had not planned on: dating without a purpose When he was young, he dated to pursue a wife.” The sex-escapades are described using hyperbole, purposely overly embellished, and designed to make the reader snicker. When Harry and Debbie finally hook up, Glowka piles on the Norse mythology to describe the scene: “Debbie explored Odin’s chest and stomach and soon found the trunk of Yggdrasil, the World Ash Tree, with its roots and holding together the Nine Worlds with their various wells.” Perhaps, Harry’s life was so dull and routine that anything that comes his way post-wife is super sparkly and new. I’m still pondering that. I mean “mythical beings” is part of the title and just look at the cover. A lady emerging from the water with a fish in her mouth! Plus, there’s an element of satire throughout the novel, so ultimately, the reader will have to decide that one.

It isn’t until Harry meets another widower, Debbie, a 58-year-old, Harley-riding, giant of a woman in an all-female biker club called the Shield Maidens that he discovers what he’s been missing. Harry was covering up grief with his follies, pursuing everything to avoid feeling. He hadn’t mourned his wife, and for all the contempt he seems to have had for her they were still married for forty years. He does have his moment to mourn eventually. There’s a lovely scene where the two journey to the Georgia National Cemetery that hit me a little hard. Trout And Other Mythical Beings is set in North Georgia; Cherokee County was my old stomping grounds as a young adult. My father is interned in the Georgia National Cemetery and the ride Glowka describes up to the to the cemetery choked me up a bit. Harry needed this, but more than anything he needed someone like Debbie who becomes first a friend and then a love interest. That’s what Harry was truly seeking all along–human connection.

Trout and Other Mythical Beings, as all myths should, has an epic ending. The whole novel will make you giggle and some of my favorite scenes are the interactions between the new, leather-clad, motorcycle riding Harry and Kat, who thinks her father has lost his mind. The collision of those two personalities is wonderful. Those are the scenes you start reading faster to discover Kat’s reaction and go back and reread. For all its comedy, the novel does touch on serious subjects—disease, suffering, death, grief. Kat went into overdrive and Harry simply ignored his wife’s death, replacing the void with camo, women, and an Indian motorcycle, and that’s okay. It’s valuable to recognize people react differently. There’s not a right or wrong way to deal with death. In the end there’s a reconciliation between father and daughter that probably never would have occurred if Harry had died before his wife did. I think good fiction ought to say something and send a message, however, it can’t be forced, and it should be cleverly articulated. That’s what Glowka has done with Trout and Other Mythical Beings; he’s used the art of comedy to interpret tragedy in an incredibly unique and invigorating way.

Get your paperback copy of TROUT AND OTHER MYTHICAL BEINGS by visiting Bear Book Market at 21 North Grove Street, Dahlonega, GA, via Bear Book Market’s online store at Bear Book Market, directly from the author by emailing him at a_glowka@yahoo.com, or via Kindle E-book.

Want to meet the author, attend a reading, and hear some banjo playing? You do. You sure do! Here’s your opportunity:

Etowah Valley MFA Program Summer Residency Reinhardt University Waleska, GA July 10, 2021, 8:00 pm: Trout and Other Mythical Beings: A Reading from the Arthur Wayne Glowka (a maybe a little banjo). Directions

More about Arthur Wayne Glowka:

Photo by Beth Glowka

Arthur Wayne Glowka (born in Weimar, Texas, in 1952) grew up in San Antonio, Texas, in the shadow of the Alamo, and heard heroic tales about its fall from an early age. The Irish nuns who ran his elementary school directed him to books about King Arthur and Robin Hood, and his study of Spanish in high school has led to a lifelong fascination with Latin America and Spain. He studied English at the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., 1973; M.A., 1975), where he fell in love with medieval tales told in their original languages. Before pursuing his doctorate in English at the University of Delaware (English, 1980), he spent two years away from formal study to fish and to plunder libraries and used bookstores for books on fishing and a wide variety of other subjects. His scholarly publications have treated metrics, the legendary history of Britain, Geoffrey Chaucer, dialectology, lexicography, and Flannery O’Connor. He has served as an editor for academic journals, most recently James Dickey Review. His creative publications include an epic about the Texas Revolution (The Texiad), a series of medieval romances retold for contemporary readers, plays, and a novel (Trout and Other Mythical Beings). He was Professor of English at Georgia College (1980-2007) and the Dean of the School of Arts and Humanities at Reinhardt University (2007-2020). He retired from teaching and administration in July of 2020—but not from writing, woodworking, music, and hiking.

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