Geoffrey Craig’s fiction, poetry and drama have appeared in numerous literary journals, including the New Plains Review, Calliope, Foliate Oak, Spring – the Journal of the E.E. Cummings Society and The MacGuffin. He has received two Pushcart Prize nominations.
In January 2016, Prolific Press published his novel, Scudder’s Gorge. Previously, Wilderness House Literary Review had serialized both his verse novel, The Brave Maiden, and his novella, Snow.
Four of his full-length plays (one co-authored) and ten of his one-acts have been produced. He has directed productions of eight of his plays.
Geoffrey has a BA (Colgate), an MBA (Harvard) and an MA in history (Santa Clara). He served in the Peace Corps in Peru and had a successful career in banking before turning to writing.
Writing is my second career; banking was my first. I’ve been frequently asked if I would have liked writing to be my first – or only – career. In that case, my girl friend and I would be dining on cat food – if we were lucky. I also learned a lot as a banker: about people, about discipline, about writing – believe it or not – and about finance.
After graduating from Phillips Exeter Academy, Colgate University and Harvard Business School, I spent two years in the Peace Corps. This was a transformative experience as, coming from a comfortable background, I learned how most of the world lives. I also learned Spanish and how to live in an unfamiliar culture. With two travel interludes, I then spent a couple of years as a small business consultant and over twenty-five years as a banker. Along the way, I got a second master’s degree: an MA in History in 1973 from Santa Clara University. In banking, I reached the level of Senior Vice President at Credit Suisse and retired from banking in 2002 with the title of Director at Credit Suisse First Boston.
I began writing in 2000 when a former girl friend sent me some poems satirizing the Florida election recount. They were funny and based on famous poems. Thinking I could do that, I sent back a poem based on Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” with a note saying that if Robert Frost could read this, he’d turn over in his grave. She replied that I was clearly wasting my time as an investment banker and that if he could, Robert Frost would sit up in his coffin and applaud. So I began to write.
At first, I thought of it as a kind of hobby – something to occupy my time when I retired. If this is a hobby, I need to find another hobby.
I’m a modestly, very modestly, successful writer and certainly not financially. I have had stories and poems published in literary journals; fourteen plays produced (full-lengths and one-acts with one co-authored) in festivals and community theaters; a novel in verse and a novella serialized in Wilderness House Literary Review and, most recently, “Scudder’s Gorge”, a prose novel, published by Prolific Press.
To achieve this modest level of acceptance, I’ve had rejections … rejections … rejections. I’m at the two thousand mark and counting. The only one that bothered me was when I submitted a dark play about a suicide in a camp and the rejection letter stated how the theater found my play, “appealingly good-humored”.
I am a contemplative person. My mind never seems to take a breather, and much of my work relates to issues of our times and culture. Racism and prejudice are somewhat persistent themes. In my story, “The Snake”, set in the South of the early Twentieth Century, a black veteran, coming home from service in France, is lynched because he’s in uniform. Later in the story, a young black boy is bitten by a rattler and, refused treatment at the local clinic, dies. Both of these events are based on actual occurrences. Much has changed since then but not nearly enough. The evidence of lingering racism has surfaced all too clearly in recent years. Can it be completely eradicated from our society? Probably not, but the effort must be made.
I have written a play about climate change and one about harassment in a university setting. While this may suggest that my writing is purely theme-oriented, I, in fact, pay a lot of attention to character and plot. Without interesting, complex characters and engaging stories, you don’t have much.
An early mentor and friend said that one of my strengths as a writer was my ability to listen to, absorb and utilize criticism. It was not an easy skill to acquire. It took hard work and self-examination as my natural tendency was to explain and argue when someone commented on my work. I did learn, however, and it has helped enormously in the development of my craft. Another friend once told me that when your work is published or produced, it no longer belongs to you but to your audience – to interpret as they see fit. I was astounded, but it’s true … so true. You have to accept that people will see what they want to in your work, and there is precious little you can do about it.
After retiring from banking, I began to write full-time. I wrote the verse novel as a Christmas present for my then eleven-year-old daughter. Called “The Brave Maiden”, it borrowed heavily from the Robin Hood legend except that the lead character was a young noblewoman; her family having been slaughtered by an evil count, she flees to the forest to seek revenge and conquest. She builds an army of diverse characters, some of whom distantly resemble characters from the actual Robin Hood story.
I moved on to short stories and novels. The novel, “Scudder’s Gorge”, begins with the day of “the bomb” in Hiroshima and then moves backwards in time to Eighteenth Century Vermont to a village founded by post-Revolutionary settlers. Nestled between pine-clad ridges, the valley is also home to a small band of Abenaki. The settlers and Native Americans trade and live in peace until a love affair blossoms between a young Abenaki and the daughter of a village elder. A crime is then committed which reverberates down the generations.
I started writing plays in 2007, and my first play was produced in 2008 at the Center for Performing Arts in Rhinebeck, NY. Based on a brief piece in the local newspaper, “The Medal” tells the story of a World War II veteran who was recommended for a medal but never received it. As he nears death over fifty years later, his wife determines to get him his medal. The veteran’s widow attended a performance and was very complimentary.
In 2013, I directed one of my plays at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre and loved the experience. I’ve now directed a total of eight of my plays. I greatly enjoy, both as writer and director, the give and take involved in the collaborative work of the theater. The playwright needs to be able to revise – and quickly – when the director and / or actors identify problems with the script. The director needs to listen to the actors when they suggest ways of doing things. On a number of occasions, I’ve come up against a blocking problem only to have one or more of the actors come up with just the right solution. My style as a director mirrors the style I practiced as a manager in banking: listen to your staff and consider their ideas but make decisions when necessary. This give and take style generally produces the best results and makes the endeavor more fulfilling and enjoyable for all concerned.
I’ve had an enormous amount of fun and derived tremendous satisfaction from this second career. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to keep working. It keeps my brain active. While I had a great time in the first career, I would not have missed the second one for all the world.
For anyone interested in reading “Scudder’s Gorge”, it is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, local bookstores and the publisher’s own web site.