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Surprise! What hasn't the reader seen before? What works have new energy and fresh observations? After the editors of the Clackamas Literary Review asked me to write an "introduction," I approached all their manuscript selections with a keen eye for pleasant surprises, unfamiliar situations, wonderful discoveries. Twenty years of editing have taught me this—too many submissions are dog-eared with familiarity. I have read numerous tepid works about jogging, aerobics classes, frustrated writers, professors struggling with mid-life angst.

What's new? Jim Manuel's "The Stuffed Dog Man" sets the standard, I think. Both surprising and unsettling, the narrator's ironic quest, the dark humor of the piece linger in my memory. The same for H. Lee Barnes' "A Lovely Day in the A Shau Valley." No other person has written about Viet Nam in this fashion. Manuel's story is his first publication, and I'm certain the editors are proud to introduce this new voice.

Other surprises? Read Amanda Kaplan's "First Words" and Paul Berg's "Humpback." I yearn for terrific endings like these.

Working people have little representation in contemporary literature. Most working people are at the plant or warehouse, not in writing courses. As a result, too many stories about "working people" betray the prejudices of the upper classes, portraying workers as ignorant or degraded.

Five years ago, Katheryn Stavrakis and I edited Dreamers and Desperadoes, an anthology of writers from the West that included women, ethnic groups, and working people. New voices emerged from this collection including Robert Stubblefield's. As with his other works, the CLR selection "Lateral Moves" depicts working people with breakheart honesty. The relationship between Smitty, an apartment manager, and David, his assistant, call to mind James Alan Macpherson's wonderful 1969 story "Gold Coast." In this society, people like Smitty and David are overlooked. They need "voices" and Stubblefield gives them authentic ones.

As a former long-distance runner, I appreciate the “long-haul" writers, those who have been shaping their craft for decades. Verlena Orr conjures holiday Idaho, Paulann Petersen India's moonscape, and Pamela Uschuk Australia's aboriginal songlines.

Three other veterans deserve special recognition, and readers unfamiliar with their works should get started at once. Ron Carlson offers witty and wise "promissory notes" from his shopping bag of ideas. Naomi Shihab Nye once again demonstrates the clarity and compassion of her poetry. Melissa Pritchard writes a powerful essay on region and voice.

In conclusion, the editors of CLR merit kudos, and the publication itself emphasizes the expanding role of the community colleges as cultural centers. During the last three years, some of the nation's most recognized writers have spoken at Clackamas Community College: Diana Abu-Jaber, Edward Albee, Sherman Alexie, Marvin Bell, Ron Carlson, Toi Dericotte, Colleen McElroy, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sharon Olds. CLR affords the opportunity to hear other important voices. Thank you for listening.

Printed in the Spring/Summer 1997 issue of CLR

Craig Lesley

Craig Lesley is the author of three novels, The Sky Fisherman, Winterkill, and River Song, and the editor of Talking Leaves: Contempo- rary Native American Short Stories and Dreamers and Desperadoes: Con- temporary Short Fiction of the American West.

His work has received the Western Writers of America Golden Spur Award for Best Novel of the Year, the Medicine Pipe Bearer's Award for Best First Novel, and two Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Association Awards. He has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Bread Loaf Fellowship in the Novel, two National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships to study Native American literature, and in 1996 Craig was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Sky Fisherman.

He has taught English and creative writing at the college level for fifteen years and makes his home in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and their two daughters. In 1991, he received a Doctorate of Humane Letters from Whitman College.

You can find Craig Lesley on the web at:
—  Clackamas Community College
—  Amazon
—  Whitman College Magazine Online
—  Oregon Book Awards
—  University of Oregon Library's Suggested Books and Films
—  Barnes & Noble

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