In Praise of Late Bloomers

For those of us who are in our 40s and are constantly reminded that creativity is best suited and served for by those younger than us (see Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 List), here’s a reminder that just because you’re 45 and you still haven’t published that novel (or, worse yet, finished it) doesn’t mean you’re a failure.

In Praise of Late Bloomers

The history of literature is rife with so-called “late bloomers,” writers who had the desire and the inklination to write, but never had a major work published until they turned 40 or later. Charles Bukowski didn’t publish his first novel, “Post Office,” until he was 51. Toni Morrison was nearly 40 when her first novel was published. You get the idea.

We tend to romanticize this notion that youth is a requirement for producing major works of art, and while that may be the case in, say, music or visual art, it doesn’t lend itself that well to literature. Sure, you can write a great novel when you’re 25. But you can also write a masterpiece when you’re 50.

For more inspiration, there’s Bloom, “…for writers and artists of all ages and stages, for anyone who believes that the artistic journey is, and should be, as particular and unique as each one of us; that there is no prescribed beeline to literary achievement.”

I, for one, need to be reminded of this every day, and remember that it will never be too late for me to achieve what I want to achieve as a writer.

Uno Kudo Volume 4 is Here!

I’m pleased to announce that Uno Kudo Volume 4 is now available for purchase in hardcover over at

You may recall I’ve spoken about Uno Kudo before. My work has been featured in both Volumes 1 and 2, and I also served as an editor for Volume 2. Not only did I serve as an editor for this volume, but my short story, “Anatomy Lab Class Assignment,” is one of the featured stories in this anthology of poetry, prose and art.

I have to say, without reservation, having read an advanced copy of this outstanding collection, that this is the best volume from Uno Kudo so far. Edgy? Yes. Daring? Yes. Refreshing? Yes. Definitely off the beaten path.

Do yourselves and those you love a favor, along with the terrific assortment of poets and writers documented below, and purchase your copy of Uno Kudo Volume 4 right now, just in time for the holidays. You won’t regret it, and you won’t be let down. Pinky swear.


“Man of Clay” by CL Bledsoe – Virtual Book Tour



Today is the last day of CL Bledsoe’s virtual book tour celebrating Man of Clay, a novel with elements of magical realism and a dash of steampunk. This funny, engaging story redefines what Southern Literature is capable of being. Man of Clay can be pre-ordered today!


I was raised by storytellers who recreated the drab, flat Arkansas Delta world as a place of legend. The smallest events could take on mythic status. Years ago, a farmhand worked for my father. He was a somewhat shiftless young guy, a nephew of someone who my father hired as a favor. One day, he was backing a truck full of soybeans, meaning to turn it around, though he’d been warned just to back it out. As he eased the truck back, he kept repeating, “Doin’ good, doin’ good,” until he backed it into a ditch and turned the truck over, dumping the harvest out. Forevermore, he became Doin’ Good, and the tales of his exploits were legendary.


Doin’ Good was a minor character, though, compared to the legend of my father, whose exploits could fill up a novel by themselves. From the time he learned a brother-in-law was a jogger, challenged him to a footrace in rubber boots, and won, to the practical jokes he and my uncles used to play on each other, my father was a larger-than-life character who imbued my childhood with a kind of magic. When he wasn’t acting out tall tales, he was telling them, from jokes he made up to stories passed down for generations.


When I wrote Man of Clay, I was inspired by these kinds of stories. I looked to the folk tales collected by Vance Randolph, Zora Neale Hurston, and others, as well as stories my father told me. One story trope, especially, stood out: the Big John stories. Big John is a trickster character, with origins traced back to the Anansi the Trickster stories that were brought over by African slaves. The spider, Anansi, became Big John, a slave who matched wits with Master, and almost always won, though often at great cost. (These stories further morphed into the more palatable Brer Rabbit stories). I thought it was important that I stay true to the spirit of the Big John stories, but that I make up my own for the book to pay homage.


Book Cover


In Man of Clay, Big John appears as a symbol of hope for the slaves. Some of his stories are fairly whimsical—like the one where Master’s wife tries to seduce Big John, and he escapes by climbing a ladder up to the moon—and some are much darker, like the one about the time Big John dressed his daughters up like sons to hide them from Master. When Master discovers the subterfuge, he murders the girls, but not before being forever humiliated.


The great power of these tales is their tragedy. These aren’t Disney stories with happy endings; they are brutal, sardonic stories in which the only real gain is often a simple revelation of humanity, which might come at the cost of the lives of those Big John cared for most; instead of a Prince Charming or a golden castle, Big John simply wanted to be treated respectfully and recognized as a human being.


CL Bledsoe is the author of four poetry collections, one short story collection, and five novels, including the Necro-Files series. His stories, poems, essays, plays, and reviews have been published in hundreds of literary journals, including Cimarron Review, Barrow Street, New York Quarterly, Gargoyle, Nimrod, Arkansas Review, Pank, Potomac Review, and many others. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize thirteen times, Best of the Net four times, and has had two stories selected as Notable Stories of the year by Story South’s Million Writers Award. Bledsoe currently lives in Alexandria, VA, with his daughter.

Author Photo

(REPOST) – NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Hey everyone,

Sorry for the lack of posts here lately. Life’s getting in the way of blogging. Hopefully that will change soon.

I read this article this morning on Flavorwire, and was thinking of everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo, and those of us who aren’t:

NaNoWriMo Is Upon Us: How to Get Inspired Even If You’re Not Participating

Some helpful ideas to keep us writers engaged while we’re not participating in NaNoWriMo.

As NaNoWriMo Approaches, A Decision…

Around this time, many of you, myself included, would begin gearing themselves up for the exhilarating marathon known as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Thirty days, 50,000 words. I myself have participated in it three times, having successfully completed it in 2012. It’s a blast, let me tell you. There’s no greater rush than that final week, the words simply flying out from you, and you’re not editing yourself as you’re going along. Just let it come out of you, and the rest will follow. It’s an incredible high, and, believe me, I know highs.

Right before the November 1st kickoff, we NaNers (the term I use for NaNoWriMo participants; the proper term is “NaNoWriMos”) will prepare ourselves, if we are the preparing type. We have a precise idea of what our new work is going to be about. We’ve begun outlining the story, fleshed out characters, consulted our trusted books on the writing craft. We’ll even put together our NaNoWriMo Survival Kit – lots of caffeine and snacks will be involved.

So how am I preparing for NaNoWriMo 2014?

I’m not.

I’m not doing NaNoWriMo this year.

Nope. Not happening.

While I do have some life events that will likely prevent me from dedicating as much time as I’d need to give NaNoWriMo the attention it deserves (I start a new full-time job in two weeks, and my wife may be having surgery in mid-November), the honest truth is that I simply don’t feel like taking part this year. I’m in a self-diagnosed writing funk lately, and NaNoWriMo isn’t going to spur me out of it, either. I haven’t written much of anything lately, and what I’ve written doesn’t interest me. I’ve taken a short break from writing just to recharge and rethink some strategies. Taking part in NaNoWriMo isn’t a strategy that I want to be a part of right now, since my head and my heart just aren’t in it.

I will, however, cheer my fellow NaNoWriMo survivors on. If you’re embarking on this annual marathon, know that I’m thinking of you, and I know you’ve got what it takes to reach the finish line. But remember, ultimately it’s about the challenge, not the finished product. If you can’t finish, don’t beat yourself up over it.

If you’re thinking about doing this, for the first time, NaNoWriMo is a great exercise in the art of sticking to a deadline. While 30 days and 50,000 words won’t produce genius, it will produce that ass-in-seat mentality you need to be an effective writer…says the writer who’s taking a sabbatical from writing.

Ignore me.

Anyway…more from me later, from the writing front, soon.

(Reblog) Should I Get an MFA? 27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA

The age-old question that’s asked every year: should a writer get an MFA, or should they not get an MFA?

27 Writers on Whether or Not to Get Your MFA

Lots of food for thought from many writers who give their perspectives from both sides.

For those of you who’ve either gotten your MFAs, or are in the process of completing your MFA degrees, what’s your take? Worth the time and investment? Inquiring minds want to know.

An Open Letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell

Dear Roger,

First, let’s dispense with the formalities, shall we? I think I can call you Roger going forward. You seem like the kind of pompous blowhard who loves to go by Mr. Goddell. I’m not giving you that kind of benefit, not right now. Because as far as I’m concerned, whatever cachet you once earned, you fucking blew it.

Look, I realize right now you’re neck-deep in planning a full PR blitz trying to cover the NFL’s collective ass in the shady and despicable way you and the league handled the Ray Rice mess. It was bad enough you insulted every thinking fan out there by handing Rice a mere two-game ban after surveillance footage had been released of Rice dragging his unconscious then-girlfriend (and now-wife) from an Atlantic City hotel elevator, after having beaten her. For a league whose fan base has grown more popular with women over the past decade, the two-game suspension sent a mixed message, didn’tcha think?

Yesterday, TMZ gunned for a Pulitzer Prize and got a hold of the complete surveillance video, showing Rice beating up his girlfriend. Rice was immediately cut by the Baltimore Ravens, and you, Roger, announced that Rice was “suspended indefinitely.”

Bad enough that the NFL now has to save face and do something it should have done months ago, but then it was revealed, perhaps as a shock to absolutely no one, that the NFL not only knew this surveillance footage existed, but that it had seen the footage, knew what Rice had done, and took little action against Rice.

Roger, I’ll cut to the chase here: your actions over the past several months, in how clumsily you’ve handled punishing Ray Rice – and while we’re at, several other NFL players who have also been arrested for domestic violence disturbances – have been nothing short of reprehensible. No amount of back-peddling can repair the damage you’ve brought upon both the NFL and to yourself.

There’s only thing thing you can do right now to make things right: resign as commissioner of the National Football League.

When you took the Office of the Commissioner many years ago, you came in on a “get tough” mandate. Your predecessor, Paul Tagliabue, let’s face it, was pretty soft on a lot of players who’d run afoul of the law. Slaps on the wrist, but no real consistent policy against the players who were breaking the law, not just once, but repeatedly. You became Commissioner and declared that you were going to hold all players accountable for their behavior off the field; they were expected to conduct themselves as model citizens, and if they weren’t to comply, they would receive punishments that befit the severity of their crimes. Your mandate was immediately brought to its sternest test when it came to light that one of the league’s biggest stars, Michael Vick, was operating a dog-fighting ring. While some would argue that the punishment you handed Vick was harsh, I applauded you for taking swift and decisive action. Were you to dither in your decision, this “mandate” you spoke of would have been mere words. Instead, the league and its players took note: you meant every word, and if players were going to act like irresponsible fucktards off the field, then they would be punished like the irresponsible fucktards they were.

Which is why, flash forward seven years later, the lack of consistency you’ve demonstrated recently has been baffling at best, infuriating at worst, and frankly insulting. The message you’ve sent is this: dog killing gets you a harsh sentence, but (until yesterday) beating up your girlfriend or wife gets you a slap on the wrist.

You see, Roger, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t talk about fostering a family atmosphere, yet turning a blind eye to the barbarism that’s taking place not just on the field, but off it as well. You can’t talk about making a concerted effort to make the NFL more attractive to women, and be a major contributor to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, all the while giving a slap on the wrist to players who beat the ever-living shit out of their wives and girlfriends. You can’t preach about a safe environment when you’re given safe haven for abusers in your league, who in turn become role models for others who might think, “Well, if Ray Rice can get away with beating up with his girlfriend…” You can’t talk about holding players to higher standards when you won’t hold yourself to higher standards. You’re basically throwing your hands up in the air and saying, “Well, football’s a violent sport, full of violent players, so shit happens, I can’t be held responsible if some stupid loses his cool and beats up his girlfriend.”

Uh, yeah, you can. You need, no, I take that back, you should be held accountable for the actions of the employees of the National Football League. After all, you’re the head cheese. Nothing happens unless you say it happens, and if you say it happens, then it happens. Unfortunately, your actions regarding Ray Rice, months ago and yesterday, speak massive volumes about your character.

(And I’m not even going to discuss your stance on concussions. Your repeated denials that blows to the head don’t cause concussions are like climate change deniers shouting to anyone who’ll give them credence that wild temperature fluctuations are just normal is simply fucktard science on your part, and a shameless attempt to hide what everyone already knows, so why fucking deny it?)

And don’t give me this horseshit about “football’s a violent sport.” Watched hockey lately? That’s another sport that’s built on pure aggression, but the National Hockey League doesn’t fuck around when it comes to its Code of Conduct. Gary Bettman may be about as useless as a nun wielding a strap-on dildo when it comes to being a commissioner, but his office handles player conduct issues with an iron fist. Players are held accountable. As in, “do something that goes in direct violation with what the league finds favorable, like domestic violence, and you’re done for. Finished.” Leave the aggression on the ice. Off the ice, toe the fucking line, jack.

But you just can’t do it, can you? You can’t make your players toe the line. Because you’re a gutless coward who’s more concerned about protecting the billions in revenue (hence your shameful “there’s no such link between concussions and brain damage” stance) than you are about protecting the integrity and the image of your league. Which is why your position right now as Commissioner of the National Football League is beyond untenable right now. If you really and truly care about the integrity of the league, do the right thing and fall on your sword. The truth about what you knew about what Ray Rice did, and the lengths you took to, let’s be real, protect this scumbag, will only come back to destroy you. The truth won’t tarnish your reputation; it will destroy it.

Which is why you need to resign immediately, for the sake of the National Football League, for the sake of the fans, for the sake of battered women everywhere.

But, really, you need to resign because you’re an asshole, and the damage you’ve caused for being a blind, enabling asshole is more than enough than the National Football League and its fans deserve to endure.