March 4th, 2011 / 5:09 pm

School of Hard Knocks

Frank Bill

There is a lot of talk about the MFA, pro and con, and a corresponding vilification or romanticization of the autodidact who goes it alone and succeeds. As a writer, I’m glad I’m better because I got one. As a reader, I say: Who cares whether the writer did or didn’t get one? All that matters is whether or not what’s on the page knocks me out.

My buddy Frank Bill went it alone, and he’s doing pretty well these days. Soon FSG will publish his short story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana and his novel Donnybrook. They’re gritty stories that might put you in mind of Larry Brown or Donald Ray Pollock or Bonnie Jo Campbell. Today he posted a brief synopsis of the hard road from there to here. It is full of long hours reading and writing and stuff like this:

I gave up my studies in Chinese martial arts to write. I lost two grandparents. My dog died. My wife lost both of her grandparents within six months. My mother was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. She went through a second divorce. I went from 14 years on night shift to day work. The economy went to shit.

Reading it, I thought: Here is a guy who works harder than any seven human beings. That’s no guarantee that you’ll ever find readers, but that plus some talent plus having something to say plus the ability to be like a small child who will never take no for an answer plus some good luck might do the trick. Now the good luck is the reader’s. I can’t wait for his books to come into print, so I can buy copies for everyone I know. Here’s a link to his blog post.


  1. Amelia

      Hearing great things about his book, can’t wait

  2. chet

      first thing i thought when i saw that mug with blog title was Larry Brown, and damn if Joe isn’t right there on the shelf. definitely on board.

  3. Anonymous

  4. shaun gannon

      Frank Bill is a really good name

  5. Frank Bill

      Thanks for the high praise, Kyle. I’ll be seeing you in Corydon on the release. Oh, and Louisville in a few!!

  6. Benjamin Whitmer

      Good piece. I got a chance to preview Crimes in Southern Indiana and it’s a hell of a book.

  7. Benjamin Whitmer

      Good piece. I got a chance to preview Crimes in Southern Indiana and it’s a hell of a book.

  8. Elaine Ash

      Frank Bill is the original American Dream, 2011 version. A guy with no education comes from nowhere and wants to write. He uses all the resources available to him and works hard. He takes direction from small, online editors who offer it and cultivates relationships. He takes all the people skills and team-playing skills that he learned on his blue-collar job and uses them with other writers and the online publishing crowd. He also found a writing niche, a fresh voice, that people wanted to hear. Is this luck? More like hard work meets opportunity waiting. The questions is more like, “How could Frank Bill NOT have been successful?”
      Elaine Ash

  9. Elaine Ash

      PS Made some typos above plus a tense error but DISQUS doesn’t let me edit before publishing. Hate that.

  10. Spaceythompson

      Donnybrook leaves bruises

  11. Scott Phillips

      I love this guy and what he does. It amazes me that talent and hard work are still occasionally rewarded…..

  12. Greg Bardsley

      his work is a punch to the gut, and his personal story of success is about as inpirational as it gets.

  13. Anonymous

  14. Aaron G

      thanks for the heads up Kyle, sounds great. and also, huge congrats to the author for sticking to it and, as you said, never taking no for an answer. i’d say larry brown would be proud of that.

  15. MFBomb

      Thanks for this. Refreshing in light of reading about all of these muuuuumuuuuuu moo cow bullshit circle-jerk writers.