Interview with Max Andrew Dubinsky (PLUS: Win A Free Book)

by Joe Bunting | 160 comments

We Can't Go Home Again by Max Andrew Dubinsky

Several months ago, I read Max Andrew Dubinsky's short story, “The Boy With His Heart on His Sleeve,” and didn't care for it. Too sappy. The metaphor too easy. So when he published a book of short stories last month, We Can't Go Home Again, I only bought it because it was $0.99 cents.

I'm so glad I did.

If I could use one word to describe We Can't Go Home Again it would be Ash, like cigarettes, sin, and death. The characters are dirty with it, and Max asks us to look unflinching into their lives. To say I was impressed is an understatement.

That's why I'm absolutely thrilled to be interviewing Max Andrew Dubinsky today. Max is a writer and blogger, and recently finished a yearlong exploration of America via car. I hope you enjoy the interview!

Max Andrew DubinskyHey Max. Thanks for agreeing to share about your writing process today.

Of course. I appreciate the opportunity. Thanks for thinking of me.

You live in Oregon now, but you just finished road tripping the country for several months, right?

I've been living in a basement in the backwoods of Oregon for the last two months, however I just made an official move back to Southern California. I spent the better half of 2011 visiting over 37 different cities and towns and seeking God in the streets. My wife and I were considering moving to Portland after the trip, and this opportunity to live rent free for a few months outside the city was presented to us so we jumped on it. We used the time to dive into our craft, but I wouldn't recommend for any newlyweds to move into a basement in the woods for the first three months of marriage. It wasn't exactly a honeymoon, but it was a great opportunity for writing.

What did you learn about life? About writing?

There is a major difference between leading the charge and gaining a following. Leading a charge will present major opposition because you have to stand for something which will eventually upset someone. When we try to gain a following, we want everyone to like us and often make self-destructive sacrifices to keep everyone happy. The only thing that can sabotage you is you.

And as far as writing goes, any writer who is serious about his craft needs consistency and routine. Waking up in a different bed and city ever few days can really upset the creative mindset. As a result, I couldn't focus on any major projects aside from my blog, Make It MAD, where I documented the trip.

I once traveled the world for eleven months and hated when people asked this question, but there's no way to avoid it: what was your favorite place along the way?

This is a difficult question because, as I am sure you know, my experience in every city and state was so vastly different. That said, Southern Utah and the Pacific Northwest were the most beautiful places I explored. So many of the landscapes made me forget that I was in America. And my favorite cities were Portland, Oregon and Savannah, Georgia.

Can you tell us a bit about We Can't Come Home Again, your recently released book of short stories?

We Can't Go Home Again asks the question, “Are any of us beyond forgiveness?” as it follows seven different characters within 6 separate stories desperately seeking redemption and a second chance. I think we live in a world that harbors a lot of unforgiveness, and I really wanted to explore that through genuine human relations that have suffered major tragedies and hurts.

We Can't Go Home Again deals with addiction, pornography, abortion, broken relationships and death. I know those topics sound heavy and depressing, but that's what makes them beautiful because the characters experience forgiveness and healing from their actions.

Did you write them while you were traveling?
All of the stories featured in We Can't Go Home Again were written before I hit the road, and along the way I did, in fact, return home myself. My wife, Lauren, is a big fan of my fiction. She encouraged me to put it all together into a collection.

All of the stories were originally unrelated, but it turns out each one of them focused on the common theme of an individual who is lost and struggling with their identity. And in each story someone deals with leaving and returning home to seek atonement from the things they've done. That's how the title, We Can't Go Home Again, was born.

What is one story from the book that seems to connect deeply with people?

“31 Days of May” seems to hit home both for me and the readers. It's a dark and painful story about the destructive nature of pornography and addiction, but it's also the story in We Can't Go Home Again where the power of forgiveness, family, and light shine the brightest.

We've all struggled with or have had experiences with Pornography, and we've all been hurt by our fathers and mothers. And we all desperately desire forgiveness and unconditional love. This is why I think “31 Days of May” has received such praise and tears.

What are you working on next?

I am tackling three different projects simultaneously right now. I am working on a novel I am going to release as a digital download for 99 cents in six parts every other month in 2012, my quarter-life memoir which will focus heavily on my trip in search of faith and the events leading up to it, and the possibility of producing one of the stories from We Can't Go Home Again into a short film.

What is one piece of advice you have for aspiring writers?

The difference between being a Pro and an Amateur, is the Pro gets out of bed and gets to work at the same time every day no matter the stakes and the consequences. The Amateur writes whenever he feels like it.

Thanks, Max!

Mr. Dubinsky has graciously offered to give TEN copies of We Can't Go Home Again to Write Practice readers. To win a copy, simply comment with your email address and we'll pick TEN random winners. Deadline: Thursday, 5pm EST.

And whether you win or lose, consider purchasing We Can't Go Home Again. It's only $0.99 cents, and you'll be helping an excellent writer share his gift with the world.

Back to How to Conduct an Interview Like A Journalist.

PRACTICE

Today, practice writing about a young man driving from one coast to the other to go home. What does he see along the way? What does he think about? Does he find home when he gets there?

Write for fifteen minutes. When you're finished share your practice in the comments.

Don't forget to leave your email address to win a free copy of the book.

How to Write Like Louise PennyWant to write like Louise Penny? Join our new class and learn how. Learn more and sign up here.

Join Class

Next LIVE lesson is coming up soon!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

160 Comments

  1. Jon Fulk

    Great interview! This book has been getting my attention and is going on the list. email is jon (at) jonfulk.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Awesome Jon. Thanks.

  2. Jon Fulk

    Great interview! This book has been getting my attention and is going on the list. email is jon (at) jonfulk.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Awesome Jon. Thanks.

  3. Jessica Marks

    Wonderful interview! We Can’t Go Home Again is now on my “need to have” list! Thanks!
    jessicasmarks@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Nice Jessica.

  4. Jessica Marks

    Wonderful interview! We Can’t Go Home Again is now on my “need to have” list! Thanks!
    jessicasmarks@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Nice Jessica.

  5. Guest

    Loved the interview. Looking forward to getting better acquainted with Mr. Dubinsky’s work.
    worshipboy@hotmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’d really like his stuff, Tom.

  6. tomdub

    Loved the interview. Looking forward to getting better acquainted with Mr. Dubinsky’s work.
    worshipboy@hotmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’d really like his stuff, Tom.

  7. LindsayOberst

    So true about the difference between a pro writer and an amateur one—but it’s so easy to forget. Thanks for this interview, Joe. And thanks to Max for tackling such difficult subjects. I’d love to find out how he did. lindsayoberst (at) gmail (dot) com.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yep. Agreed. Thanks Lindsay.

  8. LindsayOberst

    So true about the difference between a pro writer and an amateur one—but it’s so easy to forget. Thanks for this interview, Joe. And thanks to Max for tackling such difficult subjects. I’d love to find out how he did. lindsayoberst (at) gmail (dot) com.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yep. Agreed. Thanks Lindsay.

  9. Leigh Ann

    What an incredible interview! So helpful and inspiring. Can’t wait to check this book out.

    intentionalbygrace {at} gmail {dot} com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Leigh Ann!

  10. Leigh Ann

    What an incredible interview! So helpful and inspiring. Can’t wait to check this book out.

    intentionalbygrace {at} gmail {dot} com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Leigh Ann!

  11. Jim Woods

    Max, thanks for the insight. Love how candid and straightforward you are.

    Joe, nice job with the interview. I wish it could have been longer!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks, man! Ha, I wish it could have been longer too. Maybe next time I’ll have to do a live interview with him and video it 😉 Grateful he took the time to do it.

  12. Jim Woods

    Max, thanks for the insight. Love how candid and straightforward you are.

    Joe, nice job with the interview. I wish it could have been longer!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks, man! Ha, I wish it could have been longer too. Maybe next time I’ll have to do a live interview with him and video it 😉 Grateful he took the time to do it.

  13. Pastorlewis

    Very much enjoyed the interview! Can’t wait to read “We can’t go home again.”

    Bobby Lewis
    pastorlewis@mac.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks for entering Bobby 🙂

  14. Pastorlewis

    Very much enjoyed the interview! Can’t wait to read “We can’t go home again.”

    Bobby Lewis
    pastorlewis@mac.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks for entering Bobby 🙂

  15. Mariaanne

    I always think of the beach as home, the old soft sanded beach on the shore of the Chesapeake in Norfolk. I haven’t lived there in twenty-five years but when I see the seagull covered fields in the Piedmont, about fifty miles west of the Virginia Beach, I know I’m almost there.

    There, in the flat ugly country that is the Piedmont of Virginia, I pass the same chimney every year. It stands above a cracked and weed covered foundation where a house was destroyed by fire. A field used once for tobacco now for cotton, surrounds it. I always wonder why they never tore it completely down, why it’s left there like a tombstone at the head of a grave. The brick chimney is embraced by young poplar saplings; and by pyracantha, a thorny, orange-berried bush, runs up the front.

    I will write a poem about that monument of rubble, I say. I say that every time I pass the chimney. I’ve said that hundreds of times.

    Last year I told my daughter about the remains of the home destroyed by fire.

    We were sitting at my sister’s house in front of a fireplace that was decorated with red-berried holly. We had been talking about the hearth that was in my parents home before they died, about how it looked a lot like my sister’s fireplace. We remembered sitting around that fireplace playing Scrabble, drinking eggnog, and telling stories about the old people who weren’t there anymore.

    My daughter said that I should write about it, about the chimney in the field, and about fire places all together, my sister’s and my parents.

    I think it’s all poems, stories, images, lives, all decorated with words and colors and scents and all waiting for someone to notice and for someone to remember about fire and ashes and what lies both underneath and beyond.

    This took more like thirty minutes. Is the end too sappy?

    Reply
    • Mariaanne

      I forgot to say. I’ve never gone anywhere much so I just stuck to the road I know.

    • joco

      I enjoyed reading your post Marianne. I love how you write a story about regretting never having written a story about the chimney. I also love how you brought us into the Christmas season with the eggnog around the fireplace. Great job!

    • Mariaanne

      Thank you Tom.

    • Joe Bunting

      No I don’t think it’s too sappy. I think it’s beautiful. I think if it does have a touch of emotion (and it does), you have earned the right to show it by setting the scene and drawing us into your world so evocatively.

      I didn’t see the young man going from one coast to the other, as the prompt suggested, and so that confused me as I started reading. But I think this is worth it.

      And that ending. It’s a bit ungainly. A bit too long. But it’s beautiful and powerful. Well done, Marianne. Thanks for this.

    • Mariaanne

      Thanks Joe. It’s the ending that I don’t like. I might get rid of one of the last two paragraphs. The last one really doesn’t add much. I didn’t do coast to coast because I’ve never been further than CO and I only went there once. Maybe someone in our group will get all the way to CA or vice-vesa.

    • Joe Bunting

      You might be right. But I love how that long sentence ends, “to remember about fire and ashes and what lies both underneath and beyond.” Please don’t cut that part at least.

  16. Marianne

    I always think of the beach as home, the old soft sanded beach on the shore of the Chesapeake in Norfolk. I haven’t lived there in twenty-five years but when I see the seagull covered fields in the Piedmont, about fifty miles west of the Virginia Beach, I know I’m almost there.

    There, in the flat ugly country that is the Piedmont of Virginia, I pass the same chimney every year. It stands above a cracked and weed covered foundation where a house was destroyed by fire. A field used once for tobacco now for cotton, surrounds it. I always wonder why they never tore it completely down, why it’s left there like a tombstone at the head of a grave. The brick chimney is embraced by young poplar saplings; and by pyracantha, a thorny, orange-berried bush, runs up the front.

    I will write a poem about that monument of rubble, I say. I say that every time I pass the chimney. I’ve said that hundreds of times.

    Last year I told my daughter about the remains of the home destroyed by fire.

    We were sitting at my sister’s house in front of a fireplace that was decorated with red-berried holly. We had been talking about the hearth that was in my parents home before they died, about how it looked a lot like my sister’s fireplace. We remembered sitting around that fireplace playing Scrabble, drinking eggnog, and telling stories about the old people who weren’t there anymore.

    My daughter said that I should write about it, about the chimney in the field, and about fire places all together, my sister’s and my parents.

    I think it’s all poems, stories, images, lives, all decorated with words and colors and scents and all waiting for someone to notice and for someone to remember about fire and ashes and what lies both underneath and beyond.

    This took more like thirty minutes. Is the end too sappy?

    Reply
    • Marianne

      I forgot to say. I’ve never gone anywhere much so I just stuck to the road I know.

    • tomdub

      I enjoyed reading your post Marianne. I love how you write a story about regretting never having written a story about the chimney. I also love how you brought us into the Christmas season with the eggnog around the fireplace. Great job!

    • Marianne

      Thank you Tom.

    • Joe Bunting

      No I don’t think it’s too sappy. I think it’s beautiful. I think if it does have a touch of emotion (and it does), you have earned the right to show it by setting the scene and drawing us into your world so evocatively.

      I didn’t see the young man going from one coast to the other, as the prompt suggested, and so that confused me as I started reading. But I think this is worth it.

      And that ending. It’s a bit ungainly. A bit too long. But it’s beautiful and powerful. Well done, Marianne. Thanks for this.

    • Marianne

      Thanks Joe. It’s the ending that I don’t like. I might get rid of one of the last two paragraphs. The last one really doesn’t add much. I didn’t do coast to coast because I’ve never been further than CO and I only went there once. Maybe someone in our group will get all the way to CA or vice-vesa.

    • Joe Bunting

      You might be right. But I love how that long sentence ends, “to remember about fire and ashes and what lies both underneath and beyond.” Please don’t cut that part at least.

  17. Mariaanne

    I bought the short stories and will read one this afternoon. This is a hard time of year to keep reading and writing.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’re not kidding Marianne. I just landed in California for Christmas. It’s going to be interesting.

  18. Marianne

    I bought the short stories and will read one this afternoon. This is a hard time of year to keep reading and writing.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’re not kidding Marianne. I just landed in California for Christmas. It’s going to be interesting.

  19. Sherrey Meyer

    Joe, great interview and thanks for bringing this book and author to my attention. Mr. Dubinsky, Max, wish you had hung around Oregon a little longer. Perhaps we could have run into each other in a writing group or coffee house. I’m in Portland on the SE side in a house situated in what we all “Meyer Woods” — in the city but isolated — and love it! Keep up the writing. Sounds like Lauren is good for your craft.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’re quite welcome Sherrey.

  20. Sherrey Meyer

    Joe, great interview and thanks for bringing this book and author to my attention. Mr. Dubinsky, Max, wish you had hung around Oregon a little longer. Perhaps we could have run into each other in a writing group or coffee house. I’m in Portland on the SE side in a house situated in what we all “Meyer Woods” — in the city but isolated — and love it! Keep up the writing. Sounds like Lauren is good for your craft.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’re quite welcome Sherrey.

  21. August McLaughlin

    Great interview. I’m blessed to have never had direct problems/experiences with porn or been hurt by my parents, but suspect I’d appreciate and enjoy “31 Days of May” anyway. Sounds like a lovely collection of meaningful stories…

    Thanks for sharing Max’s insight with us, Joe!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Right, August, it’s a great story, regardless. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  22. August McLaughlin

    Great interview. I’m blessed to have never had direct problems/experiences with porn or been hurt by my parents, but suspect I’d appreciate and enjoy “31 Days of May” anyway. Sounds like a lovely collection of meaningful stories…

    Thanks for sharing Max’s insight with us, Joe!

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Right, August, it’s a great story, regardless. Thanks for commenting 🙂

    • Joe Bunting

      Awestom. Thanks Tyler.

    • Joe Bunting

      Awestom. Thanks Tyler.

  23. joco

    The sign said 2554 miles to Barstow, California when Jim left Wilmington, North Carolina. It just as well have been 25 million as far as Jim was concerned. He hadn’t been home since he’d run away the day after his high school graduation. Fleeing the physical abuse of his alcoholic father, Jim had slowly made his way across the country working odd jobs, in between two stints in county jails, over the past three decades.

    His old man had long passed from cirrhosis of the liver, but Jim had recently received word from a former high school girlfriend, that his mother was sick and near death, so he decided he needed to make the trek home. Perhaps he’d try and make amends. Or maybe he’d just attend her funeral.

    Driving through Raleigh, Jim marveled as the odometer passed 400,000 miles on his 1987 Honda Accord. He prayed his oldest and dearest friend could make the cross-country trip across Interstate 40. He had done all he knew to do to keep his car running, which included keeping a roll of duct tape in the trunk for emergency repairs.

    His old car coughed and sputtered slowly through the Smoky Mountains causing Jim to think about his mom. She had been a chain smoker all his life. It was probably her greatest vice, that, and being a doormat to her abusive husband. He choked back a tear when he remembered the last thing he’d ever said to her. He’d gone out drinking with some friends after graduation and come in at four in the morning. When his mom caught him sneaking in so late, she started in on him, yelling and lecturing. His only response was to tell her to go to hell just before slamming his bedroom door in her face. When he woke up around noon, she was already at work. By the time she came home that evening, he was headed to Vegas.

    Jim made a pit stop in Nashville. He’d lived there back in the late nineties. This was where his dreams of becoming a singer were finally buried, once and for all. Music City was where he vowed to never sing another note as long as he lived. As he filled up his car with gas, he gazed at the city skyline and remembered the night he threw his guitar out the car window on his way out of town. He wondered if his mom still had his dad’s old Gibson.

    Jim drove through the night, driving straight through Arkansas without stopping. He’d spent six months in the Pulaski County jail and had zero fond memories of that place. As soon as he crossed the Oklahoma state line, he pulled into a rest area for a quick nap before continuing his journey home.

    As he slept, he dreamed about driving up to his parent’s place in Barstow. Both of his parents would greet him on the front porch with hugs and apologies. There would be a welcome home party inside, with all of his high school buddies and their gorgeous young wives. The table would be set with all his favorite food. His old girlfriend would hand him a beer; she’d be wearing the same dress she wore at their graduation.

    When Jim woke from his dream, he stretched a bit to clear the cobwebs from his head. He started his old car and turned east for fear it could never make the long journey home.

    Reply
    • Katie Axelson

      I like this. Maybe because I’m well-aquainted with I-40, the cornfields of the midwest, and the long drive home.
      Katie

    • joco

      Thanks Katie. Yes, I’m also very well acquainted with I-40, especially between Arkansas and North Carolina. I enjoyed your story as well. Do you really from NC but live in Washington? That’s a loooong road trip!

    • Katie Axelson

      Not those two specific states but “home” really is split by many, many miles.

    • Mariaanne

      This is interesting. He is a character who you don’t want to like but his car is breaking down and he has so many regrets. I don’t blame him for turning back if every place he passes calls forth bad memories. Thanks!

    • Joe Bunting

      Agreed. His car is a great symbol for his past.

    • Joe Bunting

      Hmmm… this is interesting, Tom. I love the memories. I love the characters. I love the pieces you’ve put together here. But you summarize too much. This seems to be a framework for a story, not storytelling. Of course, how do you tell a whole story in 15 minutes. Maybe all you can do is create a framework.

      But to make this work (and I think you CAN and maybe should make this work) you need to expand this so that you’re not summarizing events like the day he ran away from home, the prison term, and even the way he fixes his car.

      I love the ending. We don’t get what we want, but it makes sense for his character that we don’t. I think this is good. Just needs some filling in. Does that make sense?

    • joco

      “Of course, how do you tell a whole story in 15 minutes.” And, might I add, the assignment was to write about a cross-country trip! In 15 minutes?! What were you thinking Joe. Don’t you realize your faithful followers strive to meet your every expectation?

      But seriously, I ALWAYS appreciate your feedback. It’s very thorough, encouraging and specific. I do want to rework my story and fill it out. I love road trips and stories about road trips.

    • Joe Bunting

      Haha! You’re awesome, Tom. I usually expect you’ll get started on something and stop after 15 minutes mid sentence. That’s what I do in situations like these. But you’re more of an overacheiver than I, which I love. Good job writing a “complete” piece, Tom. I really do think this could be a very good piece.

    • Kirsten George

      I really think my favorite part of this whole piece was the analogy of the sputtering car to his chain smoking mother.
      Brilliant.

    • Jim Woods

      Tom, I really enjoyed this. It took me on an adventure, albeit a very remorse-filled one. I can’t help but picture the loneliness on Jim’s face as he puts along in the Smokies.

      Why is all of the best stories are often sad ones?

      Like Joe mentioned I’m sure this could be expanded on further, but I really enjoyed it.

  24. tomdub

    The sign said 2554 miles to Barstow, California when Jim left Wilmington, North Carolina. It just as well have been 25 million as far as Jim was concerned. He hadn’t been home since he’d run away the day after his high school graduation. Fleeing the physical abuse of his alcoholic father, Jim had slowly made his way across the country working odd jobs, in between two stints in county jails, over the past three decades.

    His old man had long passed from cirrhosis of the liver, but Jim had recently received word from a former high school girlfriend, that his mother was sick and near death, so he decided he needed to make the trek home. Perhaps he’d try and make amends. Or maybe he’d just attend her funeral.

    Driving through Raleigh, Jim marveled as the odometer passed 400,000 miles on his 1987 Honda Accord. He prayed his oldest and dearest friend could make the cross-country trip across Interstate 40. He had done all he knew to do to keep his car running, which included keeping a roll of duct tape in the trunk for emergency repairs.

    His old car coughed and sputtered slowly through the Smoky Mountains causing Jim to think about his mom. She had been a chain smoker all his life. It was probably her greatest vice, that, and being a doormat to her abusive husband. He choked back a tear when he remembered the last thing he’d ever said to her. He’d gone out drinking with some friends after graduation and come in at four in the morning. When his mom caught him sneaking in so late, she started in on him, yelling and lecturing. His only response was to tell her to go to hell just before slamming his bedroom door in her face. When he woke up around noon, she was already at work. By the time she came home that evening, he was headed to Vegas.

    Jim made a pit stop in Nashville. He’d lived there back in the late nineties. This was where his dreams of becoming a singer were finally buried, once and for all. Music City was where he vowed to never sing another note as long as he lived. As he filled up his car with gas, he gazed at the city skyline and remembered the night he threw his guitar out the car window on his way out of town. He wondered if his mom still had his dad’s old Gibson.

    Jim drove through the night, driving straight through Arkansas without stopping. He’d spent six months in the Pulaski County jail and had zero fond memories of that place. As soon as he crossed the Oklahoma state line, he pulled into a rest area for a quick nap before continuing his journey home.

    As he slept, he dreamed about driving up to his parent’s place in Barstow. Both of his parents would greet him on the front porch with hugs and apologies. There would be a welcome home party inside, with all of his high school buddies and their gorgeous young wives. The table would be set with all his favorite food. His old girlfriend would hand him a beer; she’d be wearing the same dress she wore at their graduation.

    When Jim woke from his dream, he stretched a bit to clear the cobwebs from his head. He started his old car and turned east for fear it could never make the long journey home.

    Reply
    • Katie Axelson

      I like this. Maybe because I’m well-aquainted with I-40, the cornfields of the midwest, and the long drive home.
      Katie

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Katie. Yes, I’m also very well acquainted with I-40, especially between Arkansas and North Carolina. I enjoyed your story as well. Do you really from NC but live in Washington? That’s a loooong road trip!

    • Katie Axelson

      Not those two specific states but “home” really is split by many, many miles.

    • Marianne

      This is interesting. He is a character who you don’t want to like but his car is breaking down and he has so many regrets. I don’t blame him for turning back if every place he passes calls forth bad memories. Thanks!

    • Joe Bunting

      Agreed. His car is a great symbol for his past.

    • Joe Bunting

      Hmmm… this is interesting, Tom. I love the memories. I love the characters. I love the pieces you’ve put together here. But you summarize too much. This seems to be a framework for a story, not storytelling. Of course, how do you tell a whole story in 15 minutes. Maybe all you can do is create a framework.

      But to make this work (and I think you CAN and maybe should make this work) you need to expand this so that you’re not summarizing events like the day he ran away from home, the prison term, and even the way he fixes his car.

      I love the ending. We don’t get what we want, but it makes sense for his character that we don’t. I think this is good. Just needs some filling in. Does that make sense?

    • Anonymous

      “Of course, how do you tell a whole story in 15 minutes.” And, might I add, the assignment was to write about a cross-country trip! In 15 minutes?! What were you thinking Joe. Don’t you realize your faithful followers strive to meet your every expectation?

      But seriously, I ALWAYS appreciate your feedback. It’s very thorough, encouraging and specific. I do want to rework my story and fill it out. I love road trips and stories about road trips.

    • Joe Bunting

      Haha! You’re awesome, Tom. I usually expect you’ll get started on something and stop after 15 minutes mid sentence. That’s what I do in situations like these. But you’re more of an overacheiver than I, which I love. Good job writing a “complete” piece, Tom. I really do think this could be a very good piece.

    • Kirsten George

      I really think my favorite part of this whole piece was the analogy of the sputtering car to his chain smoking mother.
      Brilliant.

    • Jim Woods

      Tom, I really enjoyed this. It took me on an adventure, albeit a very remorse-filled one. I can’t help but picture the loneliness on Jim’s face as he puts along in the Smokies.

      Why is all of the best stories are often sad ones?

      Like Joe mentioned I’m sure this could be expanded on further, but I really enjoyed it.

  25. Colleen G.

    Very inspiring interview and look forward to reading his work. Colleen G. / VaGeyers@aol.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks, Colleen!

  26. Colleen G.

    Very inspiring interview and look forward to reading his work. Colleen G. / VaGeyers@aol.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks, Colleen!

  27. Eileen

    Great interview. Sounds like a great book! Came across Max’s journey via Twitter a few months ago. Love the idea of picking up and road tripping like that. Can’t imagine it not growing you in so many ways.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      It is. You need to get a copy, Eileen. You’d like it 🙂

  28. Eileen

    Great interview. Sounds like a great book! Came across Max’s journey via Twitter a few months ago. Love the idea of picking up and road tripping like that. Can’t imagine it not growing you in so many ways.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      It is. You need to get a copy, Eileen. You’d like it 🙂

  29. Hopenaomi314

    his last answer = SO TRUE.

    Reply
  30. Hopenaomi314

    his last answer = SO TRUE.

    Reply
  31. Katie Axelson

    KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com
    (and this is me resisting the urge to fix this practice and do something crazy like put it all in the same tense)

    The engine revved, the trip-tracker was reset, and the GPS said an insane number of hours until I made it home. The book on tape wouldn’t make it all the way. I’d have to stop at a Cracker Barrel somewhere between Montana and South Dakota for a new one. Tomorrow. Or maybe the next day if that’s what it took it find a Cracker Barrel. I had enough thinking to keep my mind occupied for today’s journey or longer.

    I was leaving home to drive home. With 49 hours between them, that thought didn’t seem logical. Yet it was my reality. Edmonds, Washington, and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Home. My world is divided by a vast country filled with hills and plains, mountains and cornfields. Today I would see it all. Well, over the next week I would see it all. All by myself.

    Camera, cheeze-its, cell phone, and change for the tolls littered my passenger seat. I wished I had a tape recorder to hold all of my thoughts or a camcorder to record the beauty. Not that of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. My brain will remember those well enough. It will be mush by morning, my brain. Yet on we will journey. It will be unrecognizable by the time I make it home to sweet tea and friend okra. But it will be worth it to cross the Appalachians (to hear their name pronounced correctly) and to cruise right up to the Atlantic.

    I waved goodbye to the Pacific and the perpetual rain. My life and my home.

    The thoughts of home last me well past the Idaho state line. I seems like a four-letter word should not be so difficult to define.

    Is home where my license plate is from or where my license was issued? Is home where my garage door opener works or where I used a key? Is home where my mail arrives or where I spend most of my nights?

    Home is where my heart is. Home is where my family is. Then home is far, far away no matter where I am. Home moves to always be the place I yearn for but never the place where I am.

    I don’t know where I am. There are too many hours to go to worry about little things like the name of the town where I stopped for gas and meal number one.

    Yet today, home is my 2008 Corolla that needs an oil change. Tonight home will be a motel roo somewhere between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

    Reply
    • Oddznns

      This is good

    • Joe Bunting

      Katie, you’re so funny. And yes, go crazy with those tenses.

      My favorite part of this is the reflection on home, “Yet today, home is my 2008 Corolla that needs an oil change. Tonight home will be a motel room somewhere between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.”

      I’d love to see you go on in that vein for a little longer. That home is your present moment, the vision before your eyes, the concrete under your feet.

      And I liked your goodbye to the Pacific. It’s interesting how we make relationships with these objects like oceans and rain and geography.

      This was great, Katie. Is it a true story?

    • Katie Axelson

      Thanks, Joe.

      Aspects of it are true. I was actually lamenting “home” before I read the interview/prompt so it seemed only appropriate.

    • Mariaanne

      Very interesting. The idea that home can be determined by both what’s outside and what’s inside is not new but it is pretty clear here.

  32. Katie Axelson

    KatieAxelson[at]gmail[dot]com
    (and this is me resisting the urge to fix this practice and do something crazy like put it all in the same tense)

    The engine revved, the trip-tracker was reset, and the GPS said an insane number of hours until I made it home. The book on tape wouldn’t make it all the way. I’d have to stop at a Cracker Barrel somewhere between Montana and South Dakota for a new one. Tomorrow. Or maybe the next day if that’s what it took it find a Cracker Barrel. I had enough thinking to keep my mind occupied for today’s journey or longer.

    I was leaving home to drive home. With 49 hours between them, that thought didn’t seem logical. Yet it was my reality. Edmonds, Washington, and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Home. My world is divided by a vast country filled with hills and plains, mountains and cornfields. Today I would see it all. Well, over the next week I would see it all. All by myself.

    Camera, cheeze-its, cell phone, and change for the tolls littered my passenger seat. I wished I had a tape recorder to hold all of my thoughts or a camcorder to record the beauty. Not that of Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. My brain will remember those well enough. It will be mush by morning, my brain. Yet on we will journey. It will be unrecognizable by the time I make it home to sweet tea and friend okra. But it will be worth it to cross the Appalachians (to hear their name pronounced correctly) and to cruise right up to the Atlantic.

    I waved goodbye to the Pacific and the perpetual rain. My life and my home.

    The thoughts of home last me well past the Idaho state line. I seems like a four-letter word should not be so difficult to define.

    Is home where my license plate is from or where my license was issued? Is home where my garage door opener works or where I used a key? Is home where my mail arrives or where I spend most of my nights?

    Home is where my heart is. Home is where my family is. Then home is far, far away no matter where I am. Home moves to always be the place I yearn for but never the place where I am.

    I don’t know where I am. There are too many hours to go to worry about little things like the name of the town where I stopped for gas and meal number one.

    Yet today, home is my 2008 Corolla that needs an oil change. Tonight home will be a motel roo somewhere between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

    Reply
    • Oddznns

      This is good

    • Joe Bunting

      Katie, you’re so funny. And yes, go crazy with those tenses.

      My favorite part of this is the reflection on home, “Yet today, home is my 2008 Corolla that needs an oil change. Tonight home will be a motel room somewhere between Cleveland and Pittsburgh.”

      I’d love to see you go on in that vein for a little longer. That home is your present moment, the vision before your eyes, the concrete under your feet.

      And I liked your goodbye to the Pacific. It’s interesting how we make relationships with these objects like oceans and rain and geography.

      This was great, Katie. Is it a true story?

    • Katie Axelson

      Thanks, Joe.

      Aspects of it are true. I was actually lamenting “home” before I read the interview/prompt so it seemed only appropriate.

    • Mhvest

      Very interesting. The idea that home can be determined by both what’s outside and what’s inside is not new but it is pretty clear here.

  33. Embo

    You are an inquisitive mind, Joe, and therefore a great interviewer! Thanks to Max for the interview and insights!
    embobarnes@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Embo.

  34. Embo

    You are an inquisitive mind, Joe, and therefore a great interviewer! Thanks to Max for the interview and insights!
    embobarnes@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Embo.

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Alexandra. Good luck!

    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Alexandra. Good luck!

  35. Caitlin

    Witnessing Max’s story through his words over the past year has been such a motivation. Can’t wait to read this book and everything he’s working on for 2012.
    thecaitlinperry@yahoo.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’re going to like it Caitlin. Thanks!

  36. Caitlin

    Witnessing Max’s story through his words over the past year has been such a motivation. Can’t wait to read this book and everything he’s working on for 2012.
    thecaitlinperry@yahoo.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      You’re going to like it Caitlin. Thanks!

  37. Justin Heap

    Loved your comments on “leading a charge” versus “gaining a following” – this is so true across different platforms as well. Thanks for the interview @write_practice!

    Also, of course, I would love to read the book, sounds great! plokjustin@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Justin 🙂

  38. Justin Heap

    Loved your comments on “leading a charge” versus “gaining a following” – this is so true across different platforms as well. Thanks for the interview @write_practice!

    Also, of course, I would love to read the book, sounds great! plokjustin@gmail.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks Justin 🙂

  39. Kirsten George

    For someone who recently has been on a roadtrip, this practice was harder than I thought it would be.
    My email is unsafebehavior@gmail.com
    And now for today’s practice:

    Drives like these really wore on the mind. Crip Johnson didn’t appreciate these sorts of things.

    Nothing he could do could keep him from his arrival. Maybe he could stall. Waste a few moments by wandering around a Home Depot? Actually dine in to catch a bite at another random fast food place rather than visit the dive through?
    A royal blue sign announcing the next exit with a plethora of food joints caught his eye. Temptation to stall couldn’t justify Crip turning the wheel. He was far from hungry.

    He gripped the steering wheel tighter, feeling the pull of a place he never wanted to visit again. Some people might have called it home, his brothers for example. They never had any anxiety about coming home for the holidays.

    But then again, Crip wasn’t sure if they were plagued with memories either.

    Crip figured the decision to drive home was better than flying. He wanted time to prepare himself before reentering the war zone. Not to mention the fact that he could just leave if things got too hot. He wasn’t about to rely on his parents for his comfort or means of escape. Not this time.

    “Just leave then!” He recalled his mother screaming at him. “Go and save the world! Maybe sometime you’ll #$%^ think about saving your family!”

    Millions of blades of winter browned grass blurred into shag carpet on the side of the highway. Even the blacktop itself seemed duller than usual. Not quite used to the sterile winter of the south, Crip found it to perfectly mimic his mood. All the trees looked the same after awhile. Quiet, monolithic skeletons scratched the grey clouds in desperation, pleading for some sunlight to break through and save them from the cold.

    Crip knew that no amount of stalling could delay the inevitable. He was going to have to face them eventually. Acquiescing to emotional gravity, he drove ever onward, unwilling to allow anything but duty to keep him from his destination.

    Reply
    • Mariaanne

      I like the next to last paragraph, especially the first and last sentence. It’s sad that he’s dreading getting home but feels a duty (I guess) to go anyway.

    • Kirsten George

      Thanks Marianne.. yeah I didn’t quite know how to finish it. I always tend to WANT to finish these practices, but I am trying to teach myself to just write without the ends in mind.

    • Joe Bunting

      I agree with Marianne. I like that second to last paragraph. But I don’t think it fits well between those two paragraphs. It’s beautifully descriptive, but the one before it is this kind of crass dialogue and the one after is very internal. Sometimes the internal monologue can flow well into description and back, but for some reason this one doesn’t fit right to me. I can’t exactly pinpoint why though. Sorry. It’s bad when you’re critical and vague.

      Still I think this is a good piece. It’s an interesting exploration of the motivations behind his not wanting to be there. I like the contrast behind Crip and his brothers. And I really do love that paragraph of description.

    • Kirsten George

      Yeah I can see that being strange. I think I really wanted to do the descriptive paragraph, but didn’t know where to put it. Do you think that this would sound better if I moved the description to someplace else in the story?

    • Joe Bunting

      Maybe the beginning?

      But I think I figured out why it’s an abrupt shift. Think of your writing as the lense of a camera. In the paragraph before, you’re in a flashback scene with his mother throwing a verbal punch and him slamming the door. Then, you cut straight to the grass. The audience would be take aback a bit. Are we back in the present? Where are we?

      So you could leave it there, and just shape that first sentence so that it’s more of a gradual shift by starting with the character, “Crip watched the millions of blades of winter browned grass…”

      Does that work? I fully admit I could be wrong.

  40. Kirsten George

    For someone who recently has been on a roadtrip, this practice was harder than I thought it would be.
    My email is unsafebehavior@gmail.com
    And now for today’s practice:

    Drives like these really wore on the mind. Crip Johnson didn’t appreciate these sorts of things.

    Nothing he could do could keep him from his arrival. Maybe he could stall. Waste a few moments by wandering around a Home Depot? Actually dine in to catch a bite at another random fast food place rather than visit the dive through?
    A royal blue sign announcing the next exit with a plethora of food joints caught his eye. Temptation to stall couldn’t justify Crip turning the wheel. He was far from hungry.

    He gripped the steering wheel tighter, feeling the pull of a place he never wanted to visit again. Some people might have called it home, his brothers for example. They never had any anxiety about coming home for the holidays.

    But then again, Crip wasn’t sure if they were plagued with memories either.

    Crip figured the decision to drive home was better than flying. He wanted time to prepare himself before reentering the war zone. Not to mention the fact that he could just leave if things got too hot. He wasn’t about to rely on his parents for his comfort or means of escape. Not this time.

    “Just leave then!” He recalled his mother screaming at him. “Go and save the world! Maybe sometime you’ll #$%^ think about saving your family!”

    Millions of blades of winter browned grass blurred into shag carpet on the side of the highway. Even the blacktop itself seemed duller than usual. Not quite used to the sterile winter of the south, Crip found it to perfectly mimic his mood. All the trees looked the same after awhile. Quiet, monolithic skeletons scratched the grey clouds in desperation, pleading for some sunlight to break through and save them from the cold.

    Crip knew that no amount of stalling could delay the inevitable. He was going to have to face them eventually. Acquiescing to emotional gravity, he drove ever onward, unwilling to allow anything but duty to keep him from his destination.

    Reply
    • Marianne

      I like the next to last paragraph, especially the first and last sentence. It’s sad that he’s dreading getting home but feels a duty (I guess) to go anyway.

    • Kirsten George

      Thanks Marianne.. yeah I didn’t quite know how to finish it. I always tend to WANT to finish these practices, but I am trying to teach myself to just write without the ends in mind.

    • Joe Bunting

      I agree with Marianne. I like that second to last paragraph. But I don’t think it fits well between those two paragraphs. It’s beautifully descriptive, but the one before it is this kind of crass dialogue and the one after is very internal. Sometimes the internal monologue can flow well into description and back, but for some reason this one doesn’t fit right to me. I can’t exactly pinpoint why though. Sorry. It’s bad when you’re critical and vague.

      Still I think this is a good piece. It’s an interesting exploration of the motivations behind his not wanting to be there. I like the contrast behind Crip and his brothers. And I really do love that paragraph of description.

    • Kirsten George

      Yeah I can see that being strange. I think I really wanted to do the descriptive paragraph, but didn’t know where to put it. Do you think that this would sound better if I moved the description to someplace else in the story?

    • Joe Bunting

      Maybe the beginning?

      But I think I figured out why it’s an abrupt shift. Think of your writing as the lense of a camera. In the paragraph before, you’re in a flashback scene with his mother throwing a verbal punch and him slamming the door. Then, you cut straight to the grass. The audience would be take aback a bit. Are we back in the present? Where are we?

      So you could leave it there, and just shape that first sentence so that it’s more of a gradual shift by starting with the character, “Crip watched the millions of blades of winter browned grass…”

      Does that work? I fully admit I could be wrong.

  41. Amanda Roose

    Since I discovered The Good Women Project a few months ago, followed by Max’s blog, I am consistently checking out what they both write. I would love a copy of his book! my email is amanda.roose@gmail.com 🙂

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yes, they’re both quite good. Thanks Amanda.

  42. Amanda Roose

    Since I discovered The Good Women Project a few months ago, followed by Max’s blog, I am consistently checking out what they both write. I would love a copy of his book! my email is amanda.roose@gmail.com 🙂

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Yes, they’re both quite good. Thanks Amanda.

  43. epi

    i… want to win? (yep, i have nothing amazing or insightful to say. but i read the clips shown on amazon, and will end up buying it anyway, so winning would be way beyond awesome.) eprisea@gmail.com

    Reply
  44. epi

    i… want to win? (yep, i have nothing amazing or insightful to say. but i read the clips shown on amazon, and will end up buying it anyway, so winning would be way beyond awesome.) eprisea@gmail.com

    Reply
  45. Cmsnadia

    cmsnadia@yahoo.com A girl from Europe,Italy would simply love to read it 🙂

    Reply
  46. Cmsnadia

    cmsnadia@yahoo.com A girl from Europe,Italy would simply love to read it 🙂

    Reply
  47. Mariaanne

    I just read the first three stories in this collection and had to stop reading the title story to cook. What great writing, simple, readable, profound. Wow. I’m recommending it to my niece who is just starting to enjoy literary short stories, as well as some of my other reader friends.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Aren’t they good? Thanks, Marianne.

  48. Marianne

    I just read the first three stories in this collection and had to stop reading the title story to cook. What great writing, simple, readable, profound. Wow. I’m recommending it to my niece who is just starting to enjoy literary short stories, as well as some of my other reader friends.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Aren’t they good? Thanks, Marianne.

  49. Mariam Nour

    Max is the best i have been following his blog for a while ,, he is an adorable person and an amazing writer ,, thank u for this interview and the blog and the book and everything 😀 ..drmariam88@yahoo.com

    Reply
  50. Mariam Nour

    Max is the best i have been following his blog for a while ,, he is an adorable person and an amazing writer ,, thank u for this interview and the blog and the book and everything 😀 ..drmariam88@yahoo.com

    Reply
  51. Jcormier

    I think travel is so important because we experience, see and meet so many people from different walks of life. It broadens our thinking and lets us see little pieces of ourselves that would normally stay hidden. “We can’t go home again” sounds like a must read. I’ll also check out the blog as well. Thanks. jcormier@win-soft.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks for commenting, J. The drawing is over, I’m afraid, but you can get Max’s book for only 99c on Amazon. I hope you do. It’s great.

  52. Jcormier

    I think travel is so important because we experience, see and meet so many people from different walks of life. It broadens our thinking and lets us see little pieces of ourselves that would normally stay hidden. “We can’t go home again” sounds like a must read. I’ll also check out the blog as well. Thanks. jcormier@win-soft.com

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Thanks for commenting, J. The drawing is over, I’m afraid, but you can get Max’s book for only 99c on Amazon. I hope you do. It’s great.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Home Coming | The Write Practice - [...] Interview with Max Andrew Dubinsky (PLUS: Win A Free Book) [...]
  2. Three Reasons to Write During the Holidays | The Write Practice - [...] }()); Our giveaway for Max Andrew Dubinsky’s We Can’t Go Home Again is now over. Max has emailed the…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Say Yes to Practice

Join over 450,000 readers who are saying YES to practice. You’ll also get a free copy of our eBook 14 Prompts:

Popular Resources

Books By Our Writers

The Girl Who Broke the Dark
- Evelyn Puerto
Box of Shards
- K.M. Hotzel
Surviving Death
- Sarah Gribble
3
Share to...