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Kerouac House Newsletter – December 2019

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News from the Kerouac Project

Kerouac History Tidbits

It was December 7, 1957 when Jack Kerouac finished his manuscript for Dharma Bums, the book that made our own little house famous.

Dharma Bums was a project he started on November 26th of that same year. He wrote for 11 days, fueled by coffee, benzedrine, using a roll of Telex paper so he wouldn’t have to change pages.

Chelsey Clammer’s Farewell Video

If you didn’t get a chance to see Chelsey’s farewell reading at the Kerouac House in November, you can watch it on YouTube. Many thanks to John King for recording the video and putting it together for us!

Alumni Spotlight: Alan Wilkinson, Spring 2004

From time to time, different Kerouac House alumni will write in and tell us what they’ve been up to, or how their residency helped prepare them for the writing life. This month, we hear from Spring 2004 resident Alan Wilkinson.

I vividly remember getting the letter to say I was chosen. It felt like a life-changing moment. I was 54 years old, in the middle of a tough time, working long hours in a sugar-beet factory, desperately trying to clear the debts after my TV and other commissioned work had suddenly, without notice, drained away, the way all good things do. It seems to me they arrive for no apparent reason, out of the blue, and likewise depart, inexplicably. No amount of hustling or hoping can make any difference. Just the ebb and flow of fortune’s tide.

I cannot say that my three months in the Kerouac House produced a great deal that I am proud of right now. In 2004 I was still, twenty and more years after I started, trying to make sense of a chaotic past. But the fact that I produced 110,000 words about my bizarre childhood and chequered career up to that point suggests that I cleared away a few psychological cobwebs. I also, after a conversation with Bob Kealing, got in touch with Carolyn Cassady and embarked on a fascinating and rewarding friendship that lasted the better part of a decade, until she died. There’s a long article about that experience in Beat Scene issue 70, Spring 2013.

You can read more of Alan’s story on our website.

New Bust of Jack Kerouac Adorns the Kerouac House

If you enter the historic Kerouac House in College Park you will be greeted by a bust of Jack Kerouac himself. He sits on a shelf staring at the front door, and he is there thanks to the generosity and talent of Barbara Fischler, who lives two doors from the house where the beat writer lived and wrote in 1957-58.

Barbara moved to College Park ten years ago and one of the first events she remembers in the neighborhood was the unveiling of the plaque designating The Kerouac House a National Historic Site.

The Kerouac House is used as a community hub for local literary activities and home to four writing residents each year who earn a free stay in the house on the strength of their writing. One of those residents, poet Ciara Shuttleworth, struck up a friendship with Barbara. At the end of her residency, before leaving Orlando, Ciara gave Barbara a card on which she had painted a portrait of Jack Kerouac. A year later, as she searched for a muse for her sculpting class at Crealde School of Art, Barbara glanced at the card on her office shelf and an idea was born. Why not make a bust of Jack Kerouac? Many hours later—she stopped counting early on in the project—Barbara completed the bust and donated it to the Kerouac Project of Orlando.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Board Member Vanessa Blakeslee on The Drunken Odyssey

Check out episode 396 of The Drunken Odyssey podcast featuring board member, Vanessa Blakeslee, as she co-hosts an episode with fellow board member, John King.

Vanessa Blakeslee and John King and the cover of A Very Scandinavian ChristmasIn this episode, John talks with Vanessa about the new story anthology, A Very Scandinavian Christmas, from New Vessel Press.

As John says, “In our discussion, we manage to talk about yuletide fellowship, hallucinogens, the possibility of St. Patrick’s Day cookies, and other perennial holiday topics.”

Meet our new board member: Mona El Alaoui

Mona El Alaoui’s professional experience includes both non-profit and private sector positions with such multinational and world-renowned organizations as UNICEF, Procter & Gamble, Beiersdorf , and Johnson Wax. She has lived in over 14 different countries and created sustainable, lasting relationships with men and women from over 75 countries as a true citizen of the world

Mona’s work with UNICEF provided her the opportunity to create marketing and business development strategies that heightened the organization’s profile and offerings on a global scale. In a 6+-year tenure with Procter & Gamble, her contributions as a Senior Brand Manager, Brand Manager, and Consultant resulted in dramatic sales and market share growth for key product offerings, as well as a substantial turnaround for a previously declining business.

Mona graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. Her professional training is extensive, her business experience runs deep, and she brings a coach’s heart to the Kerouac Board!

From the blog: Erik Deckers’ Visit to the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2019 Festival, Part 2

The Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival was an eventful weekend this past October, filled with more Jack Kerouac than you could ever hope for. I was invited to come up and represent the Kerouac House, both as a past writer-in-residence and as a member of the board of directors.

I showed up on Thursday and spent that day and all day Friday judging poetry, giving a talk about the Kerouac house, and even reading one of my pieces with David Amram playing keyboards behind me (You can read it here.)

But I had one more day to go. Here’s how it went down.


By Saturday, I’m exhausted. I decide to sleep in, because I’ll be up at 4 am the next morning to get to the airport, and I’ll be on the go all day today. So I decide to sleep while I can.

Cathy Cassady Sylvia speaking at the Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival.I head back to Brew’d Awakenings for breakfast, to get some writing done, and to wait for my next event. I don’t really have anything going on until the afternoon, so I meander around downtown Lowell for a while, enjoying the crisp fall air.

Unfortunately, I miss the Traditional Jazz Funeral at 9:00 that morning, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Jack’s death. I heard from a few people that it was very moving. And it’s nice to know that even after he left, his hometown still loved him and wanted to honor him.

To read the rest of Erik’s trip, please visit our blog.




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