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English professor puts his own spin on the Farmer’s Almanac

Thursday, February 21, 2013

MEDIA CONTACT: Hilary Dickinson at dickinsonh@beloit.edu or 608-363-2849

Over the past decade, Associate English Professor Chris Fink wrote a set of stories about farms and small towns in Wisconsin. The challenge, however, was to find an organizing principle−that is until he thought of the Farmer’s Almanac.

“When I hit on the idea to call it Farmer’s Almanac is really when the work came together,” Fink said. “The idea allowed me to put these stories, that might not otherwise look like they belong in the same book, together,” he said. In other words, the stories hadn’t changed−just the packaging.

Fink’s book, also called Farmer’s Almanac, is divided up into sections that can be found in the annual farmers’ publication such as Long Range Forecast, Animal Husbandry, and Hunting and Trapping. He also starts off each section with a quote from a past almanac.

Using section names from the Farmer’s Almanac is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, said Fink, who calls his book “an ironic recasting” of the longtime handbook for rural living.

Farmer’s Almanac, which is Fink’s debut work of fiction, was released in March 2013 by Emergency Press.

Described as more Orwell than Rockwell, the rural stories take place in two small towns in the mythical Odette County, Wis. Like Winesburg, Ohio and The Things They Carried, the stories in Farmer’s Almanac are linked by similar locales and reappearing characters. Since it is in between a novel and a story collection, the genre is dubbed a work of fiction.

“These stories are regional with working class themes. I consider this my subject. These are my people,” Fink said. “I think it will be of interest to people who have roots in the Midwest.”

Next up, Fink is working on another collection of short stories as well as a novel.

SOURCE:  Chris Fink is an associate professor of English at Beloit College where he teaches courses in creative writing, literature and journalism. He also serves as editor for the Beloit Fiction Journal and coordinates the Mackey Chair in Creative Writing. In addition to his book, Farmer’s Almanac, Fink has published more than 25 stories and essays in various journals, including Alaska Quarterly Review, The Cream City Review, and Hayden’s Ferry Review among others. Fink, who is the founder of the John Steinbeck Award for the Short Story, earned a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He can serve as a media resource on topics related to his teaching interests.