Courtney McDermott

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My First Book is Published

Yesterday, the fruits of my labor–which is very fitting, considering it was Labor Day–were finally realized. My first book, a collection of short stories, was finally published.

The book was conceived almost six years ago, when I returned from my stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Lesotho. The stories are all rooted in southern Africa, but I like to think–and I hope I accomplished this–that the stories still manage to be universal and accessible, while also challenging readers to step outside of themselves for a moment, and to embrace that truly human quality–empathy.

However, perhaps you should just read it for yourself…

Buy it Here: How They Spend Their Sundays (Whitepoint Press 2013)



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Debut Collection of Short Stories–September 2013!

My first book will be published early this fall. I don’t think I will get tired of passing along this news.


The collection of short stories, entitled How They Spend Their Sundays, is a mix of traditional length and flash fiction pieces, all set in the countries of Lesotho and South Africa. When I returned from serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Lesotho, I couldn’t get the place out of my brain. Whenever anyone asked me, “How was Africa?” in that friendly, not-so-curious, naive way, I couldn’t quite answer. And so I wrote my answers instead, and after a few years of writing, revising, workshopping, and publishing two of the pieces, the collection is complete and on its way to publication.

For someone who told stories as a kid into tape recorders, and drew picture books, and sent my first piece of writing to a publisher when I was just 11 (a rewrite of The Three Little Pigs set in… Africa!… and I sent it to Scholastic in an envelope, thinking that this is how one got published), I am delighted to see my life-long dream of publishing a book finally come true.

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Book reviews and such

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with writing book reviews; they seem to be the only thing I can regularly publish, and at this precarious point in my literary career–a year out of graduate school, teaching writing to freshmen, struggling to find a full time job and still write–I will take the publications I can get.

Also, book reviews are wonderful, because you can say what you think about books, and for many English majors, once out of school, few people ask or care (unless they are avid readers, themselves) about our literary opinions. Not to mention, the pay. You keep the books you read, and this is the greatest award I could receive for my work.

Besides, if I was handed a check, I would probably spend it on books anyway.

Finally, writing book reviews allows you to encounter books you may have overlooked on the shelves of your favorite library or bookstore, and to get a better sense of what is getting published out in the chaos of the literary world, which in itself is invaluable information to a young writer.

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I have added a new page displaying copy, publicity materials and design projects that I’ve completed (mainly for the University of Notre Dame).

Also, check out new additions to my publications, including a creative nonfiction essay published at the Lyon Review.

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Check out another blog of mine

This spring I am undertaking an independent study in Contemporary African Literature. To chart the readings and films I will be studying, I have created a blog entitled, “Writing Africa.” This blog will serve to explore themes of gender, violence, space, development, among others, in African literature, by linking literary theories to applicable topics in the news. Please check out this site at Writing Africa Blog

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The Artist and the Spectator

“Some people are born to make great art and others are born to appreciate it. Don’t you think? It is a kind of talent in itself, to be an audience, whether you are the spectator in the gallery or you are listening to the voice of the world’s greatest soprano. Not everyone can be the artist. There have to be those who witness the art, who love and appreciate what they have been privileged to see.” – Bel Canton, Ann Patchett

I have been always certain that I was a writer; that everything I had to say and communicate and translate could be done so through art. But I value the role of the spectator just as much as the artist, and believe I should witness art, appreciate it – whether or not I make art myself.

As a graduate student, there is continual discourse about the purpose of writing, and the role of an audience. A number of my colleagues assert that they are making art to make art, and they don’t care if they ever sell anything or have a big readership.  Writing is certainly not about money (and, at the moment, there isn’t much of that for me) and not about the New York Times Bestseller list or a movie contract for my book, but I do value a readership. It is important and necessary for me that someone is reading my work, that someone connects to my work and values what I have created. Without a reader, why do I write?

Yes, I write for myself, but I never assume that I write in isolation; that I am the only person who can appreciate or understand what I write. I have no wish to alienate anyone, and no delusion that I am that unique.

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An Excerpt from Anger

I broke the moon today. The light seeped out from the craters and cracks, and moved like fog. The light settled over the dips between mountaintops. And vanished.

The chunks of moon don’t glow anymore. Boring boulders now lay at my feet. I shall use them as stepping stones to cross the deadly green to the War Memorial: a circle of stone, engraved with names of bloodied, broken bodies decayed somewhere in France, Vietnam, Korea. There’s no moon over Paris now. No moon over Seoul.

And in place of it is a black eye socket in the sky.