Amick, Steve 1964–
Amick, Steve 1964–
CAREER: Writer. College writing instructor, 1989–93; freelance advertising copywriter, 1995–2004. Also works as an artist, playwright, musician, and songwriter.
AWARDS, HONORS: Dan Rudy Prize, George Mason University, 1989; Clio Award, 1996, for copywriting associated with an advertisement titled "Itchy Satan Jews Gun"; Sokolov scholarship, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, 1999; Best Playwright, CollaberAction Sketchbook Play Festival (Chicago, IL), 2001; named Ann Arbor's Best Writer, Current magazine reader's poll, 2005.
(And illustrator of maps) The Lake, the River & the Other Lake (novel), Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Also contributor of short stories and essays to the periodicals McSweeney's, Southern Review, New England Review, Playboy, New York Times and Story, and the anthology The Sound of Writing.
Jazz Genius (short play), produced in Chicago, IL, 2001.
We Were Soldiers (short play), produced in Chicago, IL, 2002.
Mr. Smarty-Pants (two-act play), produced in Chicago, IL, 2002.
LYRICIST; SOUND RECORDINGS
(With the His Own Worst Enemies) Your Mother/Dead Horse, Ratman Records, 1999.
There's Always Pie, 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Steve Amick's first novel, The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, was published in 2005. The book is set in Amick's home state of Michigan, in the fictional town of Weneshkeen, which is located in the state's lower peninsula. Weneshkeen is a resort town, divided between the year-round residents and the tourists who flock to its lakes during the summer. As in all tourist towns, some of the locals resent the dichotomy of being a vacation destination. At the core of Amick's novel is the character Roger Drinkwater, a Native-American Vietnam veteran who has decided not just to complain about the tourists but to fight back. Sick of jet skiers nearly running over him while he takes his morning swim across the lake, he declares a guerrilla war on the jet skiers. "This smart, punchy first novel is a smalltown soap opera," declared a Publishers Weekly contributor. The reviewer went on to call the novel "bitterly comic and surprisingly meaty." David A. Berona, in his review of the novel for Library Journal, stated: "Amazingly rich and colorful, the writing flows so smoothly that one's only regret might be that the novel has to end."
Amick told CA: "I was profoundly inspired by the example of Rob Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. I first saw it when I was two or three years old, and Rob Petrie seemed like a great guy with a very pretty wife, who had a lot of fun. Everything he did stemmed from his brain, his creative imagining: the beautiful wife, the lovely home, the cute kid, Ritchie. It seemed like a very admirable way to make a living. You kiss your wife, go into the office, roll up your shirt sleeves, and build something. It was a fun job, but a job. The importance of craft and revision was a key element to all the writers' room scenes, and I really think that demystification—that writing was a process, not ivory tower magic that you wait for—sunk in.
Additionally, my mother was a grade-school teacher before she got married, so she was very big on reading and telling us simple, true stories about her own youth. Later, I had several very good teachers in the public schools who steered me, pretty early on, toward writing as a possible career.
"The most surprising thing that I have learned as a writer is that specificity leads to universality. It seems counterintuitive, but the more concrete and specific the detail, the more vivid and believable the scene. The reader is then no longer straining to picture it and so can focus all attention on what is going on emotionally. Therefore, it becomes easier for the reader to empathize and connect—even if the particularities of the characters and events are personally foreign to the reader. I'm amazed by this every time.
"The other thing I've learned, which also surprises me with its simplicity, is the idea that at the heart of the most intriguing and even complex stories, two relative strangers 'make friends.' It sounds hokey, and I'm not saying that's the primary story, but I think there's something basic in our humanity that likes to see this—even if it's just one character acknowledging some fact about the other character that he didn't know at the beginning, or making some offhand joke that shows he remembered something personal about the other. We are, primarily, tribal animals, and I suppose this has something to do with it."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2005, review of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, p. 187.
Library Journal, April 1, 2005, David A. Berona, review of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, p. 83.
New York Times Books Review, June 5, 2005, review of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, March 14, 2005, review of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, p. 43.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 15, 2005, review of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, p. B2.
Washington Post Book World, June 12, 2005, review of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, p. 6.
Ann Arbor Book Festival Web site, http://www.aabookfestival.org/ (June 24, 2005), brief profile of author.
Steve Amick Home Page, http://www.steve-amick.com (June 24, 2005).
WinningWriters.com, http://www.winningwriters.com/ (June 24, 2005), "2002 War Poetry Contest Finalist: Steve Amick."