Friday, August 03, 2012

Guest blogger: JD Mader on writing

The critically-acclaimed author of Joe Café, The Biker and other works, JD Mader is swapping guest blog posts with me this week. Read about the best and the worst that JD Mader ever did as a writer, and then check out his blog, Avoiding the Stairs.


 The Best and Worst Things I’ve Ever Done (as a writer)

Let’s start with the bad. I majored in Creative Writing. My focus was short fiction. I had no aspirations at being a novelist then. One could focus on Novel, Poetry, Playwriting—and everyone had to take a few classes outside their interest. This was fine with me. I don’t dig poetry, but I spent years writing lyrics for my bands, so that was easy. I like novels and that was a fun class. Somewhere there is a plan for a novel and a good chunk of writing (terrible, I’m sure).

The playwriting class…ugh. At the time, I hated writing dialogue. It took me many hours of eavesdropping and transcribing random peoples’ conversations to get comfortable with dialogue. I knew the importance of good dialogue. Anyway, guess what there is a shit-ton of in a play?

I was pretty serious about writing when I was in college. I was also pretty serious about killing my brain cells and playing music and working and…you get the idea. I knew I could write a play that would get me an A. But I didn’t try. I copped out. The play I wrote all took place between two people trapped in an elevator.

It was a smart-ass move. I got my grade, but I didn’t get the point. I wish I could go back and try again. My teacher was a very accomplished playwright. It was an opportunity I blew.

I started writing professionally when I was 14 or 15, as a sportswriter in San Diego. When I moved to San Francisco for college, I just left. No thank you, no goodbye. I would do that over again, too. I didn’t appreciate the majesty of that opportunity until a decade had passed. (Bonus screw-up.)

What’s the best thing I’ve ever done?

The best thing is easy. For six years I worked with low-income, at-risk youth in San Francisco. I wore a lot of hats, but the best part was that I got to teach writing workshops to kids who did not read, did not write, and had little interest in doing so. I designed the workshop…or I should say we did.

The interest came quickly, and a lot of the kids were amazing writers. They weren’t emulating Kerouac like I did when I was in high school. They had original, unique voices, and I got to help them realize that.

We wrote as a group all the time. I was writing all day long with my students. We all produced an amazing amount of work, and we wrote in many forms. I didn’t shy away from any of them. And I shared my regret about my “play” with my kids.

We became very close, and they had some very intense stuff to write about. After the first couple of classes, the kids would come to class fired up and ready to write. They wrote on their own and brought me things to read. We wrote for the pure joy of seeing what could come out of our brains. They learned a lot. I probably learned more.

That was the most fun I have ever had with writing. Not only was I writing all the time, but I got to talk about writing all the time. And I can talk about writing forever. It also surprised me how much I knew. I was very, very lucky to get paid to do something as wonderful as writing with kids.
Since I threw in a bonus bad one, here’s my bonus good’un. My friend Pat and I have been writing and recording music together for twenty years. When I ask my four year old daughter what music she wants to listen to, she always says, “Dadda and Pat! Dadda and Pat!” That makes me about as happy as any writer has a right to be.

JD Mader is a writer and musician living in the Bay area. He is also a husband and a father. He has written countless short stories (many of which have been included in the collection Please, no eyes). He is the author of the critically acclaimed Joe Café and, more recently, The Biker (A Matt Stark Novel) — the first in a trilogy. In addition, Mader is a staff writer with, and co-founder of the mighty where you can find fiction, ramblings, and even a profanity-laced advice column. Mader likes to fish in his off time…he also likes to sit on “Francine and Dadda Rock” and talk about “stuff.”

Check out JD's website, where you can see him bending baseball bats with his bare arms; YouTube channel and Amazon author page. This week, I'm his guest blogger on Avoiding the stairs.


  1. Thanks for having me, brother.

  2. Great interview and nice to learn more about another writer!

  3. Great post and nice to see a good ol' blog swap happening. Really enjoyed Scott's post on JD's site too. Well done, guys!