Brief Bio

John Carr Walker’s stories have been appearing in literary journals since 2007. He’s the founder of Trachodon Magazine and a 2012 Fishtrap Fellow. A native of California’s San Joaquin Valley and former high school teacher, he now lives and writes full-time in Saint Helens, Oregon.

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Description of Book

The stories in Repairable Men look at the small towns and rural farms where families stay for generations and newcomers never quite feel at home. Whether trapped by dead-end work, hostile relatives, or the troubling legacies of their forebears, John Carr Walker’s characters are seeking escape, forgiveness, and redemption in the dusty corners of the new American West.

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John on Repairable Men

Repairable Men is a collection of survivors. I mean this in several ways. For the longest time I was writing stories without an eye on writing a book. I was just writing stories. I was new, my learning curve steep, and my time to write limited. I abandoned a lot of stuff, and forced myself to finish a few things that were already dead. (I eventually figured out that patience is as important as perseverance, and that sometimes starting over is healthy, so long as I remember to be curious about the effect rather than positive about the outcome—but that’s another story.) In the autumn of 2011, after coming home from the Vermont College of Fine Arts postgraduate conference, I gathered all my surviving stories, chapters, and fragments and read through everything. I made two stacks: hopeful and hopeless. The latter was much taller, but I focused my energy on the former, the prose that gave me hope. Hope that I could tighten and clarify. Hope that something would grow from this seed. Hope that these few stories published in magazines would take on a new shade, or display a new attitude, when made neighbors with other stories. I collaged, culled, and wrote and wrote. I asked my friend, fiction writer Alissa Nielsen, to read the twelve stories I’d collected under the title Good Guys like Us. After her insights, the collection was culled a final time to ten stories and the title changed to Repairable Men and I sent it to a short list of publishers for consideration. The next day, I went to work full-time on a novel manuscript—but that’s another story. A year to the month later, Sunnyoutside Press wrote to tell me they were accepting the book. I remember that “Turning Over” was written one warm afternoon in the Gund computer lab at Kenyon College, in June of 2003, during the Kenyon Review Summer Writers Workshop. “A Sword from my Country” was workshopped at Pacific University in what must have been early 2006. “Ain’t It Pretty” lent its title to my MFA thesis. I began “The Atlas Show” and “Retreat” in a rented duplex shortly after moving to Saint Helens, Oregon, and finished them in the small office of my first house. “Grandeur” and “Pups” were the last stories completed, severe reworkings of thesis stories called “Bird Years” and “Life With Dogs.” Yet the particular choices I made, like the many drafts I produced and annotated, are lost to me. The stories are, for me, literally survivors—survivors of moving, of purging, and of a time in life that allowed little time to write. And the theme that runs through them most strongly, as I read the proofs now, is one of survival—of going on after tragedy, of living through hard times, and of living with family that prefers to test rather than love. I also feel a sense of relief that the characters endure with an arch sense of humor. I’ve written into existence funny people, and for them and for me, humor provides hope that they are indeed repairable.