BookFest PA, State College, July 16, 2011

Join me and over 20 other authors at BookFest PA on Saturday, July 16 from 10 – 5 outside of Schlow Library in State College. We will be signing and selling books, as well as chatting with readers.

Many people know about The Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, better known as Arts Fest. It’s a five-day event, featuring artists from all over the country, selling their work along the sidewalks of State College and Penn State’s University Park Campus. Arts Fest is an event State College residents look forward to all year long. The festival includes fun for kids, live music, 5K and 10K runs, numerous other events, and a variety of food vendors. It draws about 125,000 people annually and is a boon for local business during State College’s quiet summer months.

For the second year in a row, Arts Fest includes BookFest PA. Featured authors Lisa Scottoline, Tamar Myers, and Nancy Martin, will be there along with Cyn Balog, Josh Berk, Lyndsay Eland, Lyndsay Barrett George, Paul Yeager, and Daryl Gregory.

Local authors include Sylvia Apple, Georgia Ann Butler, John F. Carr, Judy Ann Davis, Jeffrey Frazier, John Gastil, Cindy Simmons, Jennifer Herbstritt, Sandra Hill, Ken Hull, Marie Jackman, Heather Jordan, Janice McElhoe, Jodi Moore, Kieryn Nicolas, David Penek, Melicent Sammis, Judith Vicary Swisher, John Swisher,  Patricia Thomas, poet Zoë Brigley Thompson, Phillip Winsor, Veronica Winters, and me. Please stop by, say hello, and have your books signed by the authors.

Thanks to Pat Griffith at Schlow Library and the other BookFest PA and Arts Fest organizers for making this event happen.

Learn more at BookFest PA and at Arts Fest.

Greg Halpin is the author of Welcome to Scranton.

All the Stars Have Disappeared

I had an interesting time with this writing prompt: All the Stars Have Disappeared


I hear a noise and go out on the porch to see what is happening. It’s simply a window shudder that’s come unhinged from the wind kicking up. Not more than thirty minutes before the night sky was clear, calm. Now all the stars have disappeared along with the crescent moon, covered by ominous clouds that rolled in from the West.

We get nights like this occasionally in the Arizona desert. I should be used to them after all these years but they make me feel uneasy. Seems something bad is going to happen though nothing ever does aside for some minor damage to the outside of the house. The wind sends shivers up my spine. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I go back in the house to the kitchen, and take a sip of my drink. Something’s different about tonight. Though I think that too each time the storms roll in, but it’s always the same.

My wife comes downstairs in her robe, fresh out of the bath. She asks what the noise was. I tell her. She doesn’t like these nights either. She takes my drink and sips on it. “I wish it didn’t get like this,” she says, her eyes fearful.

“It’ll be okay,” I say. “We just have to ride out the storm.”



Copyright © Greg Halpin, 2011 All Rights Reserved

Week Four Wrap Up

We had some interesting readings this week. The writing assignment and exercises, however, were more interesting.

In class we had to do a couple of writing prompts. We also had a writing assignment due on Friday that helped me a lot with my writing. We had to write a story that built tension slowly and also showed character development. While it makes perfect sense  to do it that way after someone tells you to, it was not obvious to me when I started writing on how to do that. It’s really opened up things for me and the way I look at writing scenes.

Week Three Wrap Up

We only had one class in week three because of holiday. We learned about the different types of narrators–limited, limited omniscient, and omniscient.

Stan talked about how the narration changes in a story. For example, Catcher in the Rye starts with the young Holden Caulfield speaking directly to the reader. Then it changes. The author steps back and narrates a story. Then it changes again and Holden speaks directly to the reader. It was very interesting. I hadn’t noticed that before or if I did, I didn’t know it was a “narrational contrstruct.”

One thing that struck me was the idea that the narrator and the narrational character are not the same people. The narrator is separate from the character by time.

We talked about several books in class that I’d like to read…if I can find the time: House of Leaves, The Domino Men, and Finnegan’s Wake.

I updated my first draft of the Katie story over the weekend. I changed the title. The story remains much the same except that I changed it from third to first person, which fits with what I’m doing with my other stories I stripped out some cheesy lines and hopefully, didn’t add any new ones. I’ll know when I read it again a week or a month from now.

– – –


By Greg Halpin

She showed up at the café shortly before closing time. It had been a while since I saw her.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hey,” I said.

“I have to talk to you, Hank.” I hated when conversations started like that. It usually meant trouble. This one probably wasn’t going to be any different.

“I’m pregnant,” she said. Read the rest of this entry »

Unreliable Narrator

Here was the assignment:

Shifty Voice. Write a short sequence using a narrative voice that is “unreliable.” After you complete the selection, explain what techniques you used to “undermine” the voice you used.

No title

She was a little scared to be alone but she would be okay, the woman told her sister, the last of her visitors. She closed the door her and locked it tight. The house was empty and quiet, except for the crackling of the fire.

She went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of Riesling. Thank god her sister and friends put away all the food. The funeral exhausted her and she didn’t have the energy to do it herself. She would have let it sit out and toss it in the garbage the next day. Normally, she’d never think to waste a scrap of food. She could forgive herself. After all, she buried her husband that day.
The woman brought her glass upstairs and set it down on her bedside table. She removed her earrings, pearl necklace, and let her hair down. She removed her dress and put on her husband’s robe. She loved the way it smelled. She went to the bathroom to remove her makeup.

She got into bed and pulled her journal from the top drawer. She opened it and closed it immediately. Who could write at a time like this. She set it down and picked up the glass of wine. As she did, she accidently knocked over the photo of her deceased husband. It startled her.

She picked up the photo and looked at it for a moment. The photo was taken ten years before. The two of them had been dating six months. She was madly in love with him. Her eyes welled up with tears. She set the photo down and grabbed a tissue to dry her eyes.

She took a sip of wine. She picked up the phone from the table. She paused before dialing.

Someone answered at the other end of the line.

“I’m free,” the woman side. “We can finally be together.”


I tried to write a story where the character is very sympathetic. She suffered a loss, which we can all understand. In the end, I undermined her point of view by making her less sympathetic, suggesting she was happy that her husband died if not involved in his death.

Hemingway, Borges, and Kelly.

I read two short stories for the fiction writing class today–“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway and “The Library of Babel” by Jorge Luis Borges.

The Hemingway story was good though I have to admit I had trouble with the imagery and found the dialogue odd. Did people really converse that way eighty or so years ago? They didn’t say what was really on their minds, at least according to the analysis and an article I read about the story on Wikipedia. The analysis is much longer than the original story. Some people spent a lot of time deciphering the imagery. I thank them for that.

I found “Library of Babel” a struggle to read. From what I gathered, the author is explaining some futuristic library which may or may not be the universe. In any event, it wasn’t about people so I found it uninteresting.

The third reading was “You and Your Characters” by James Patrick Kelly. It was a good article explaining the different types of characters in fiction. I particularly liked the section where he says we can tell and not have to show to explain characters, particularly minor characters.