Auto writer/editor for the Chicago Tribune

contact pageThis image is pretty familiar here. For the past week, it’s been the facebook image for my job as the editor of the Green Guide for Fuel-Efficient Vehicles at the Chicago Tribune. It’s a silly ploy to get people to submit their fuel-efficient Car Stories. What’s fuel-efficient about this minivan? It still runs, and we’ll run it to death.

Americans hold onto their cars for an average of 11.4 years, a new high. We’ve got that beat.

Here’s a few more of my articles from the past week at the Tribune on fuel-efficient trends in the auto industry.

Where is the hybrid minivan in America?

Automakers in the United States have no plans to sell hybrid or plug-in minivans, though they keep developing electrified crossovers and compacts.

2014: The year of the diesel?

13 diesel passenger vehicles enter the US market for 2014 boasting better fuel economy and lower emissions than gasoline engines. And they’re not all Volkswagen or Mercedes-Benz.

2014 Ford F-150 Tremor: With great power comes pretty good fuel economy

Combining V8 performance with V6 fuel economy, the Ford F-150 Tremor with EcoBoost packs pickup power and speed.





Literary Chicago: Past, Present, Future

Chicago Publishers Gallery Book Wall. Photo credit: Chicago PublishesA Brief Literary History of Chicago Published in F Magazine

It’s a little known fact that four of eight Nobel Prize winners in Literature hail from the Midwest. Here’s another Cliff Clavinism: an essay I was assigned by Tom Popp of f Magazine has been published, “Never a Lovely so Realizable: The Chicago Literary Landscape.

The Next Big Thing

photo by rakugo

My friend Megan Stielstra, author of Everyone Remain Calm and bestower of good news emails, asked if I wanted to partake in a blog chain going around amongst writers called The Next Big Thing. You agree to answer a ten-question form, then get 3-5 other writers to participate. The idea is not just to drum up support for our works in progress but to see what our writer friends are up to. Here’s Megan’s Big Thing.

As writers we don’t have a water cooler where we can meet at during the day to share our frustrations or boast of our minor breakthroughs. Few nonwriters could understand why you’d be bragging about finally nailing that key transitional paragraph. That’s what I’m taking from The Next Big Thing.

1. What is your working title of your book?

The Affairess

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

Moving from the city to the suburbs, taking the 6:20 am express train, and seeing the same woman get dropped off by her husband at the train stop, then meeting her lover three stops later on the train. That might be fiction. I don’t know. Definitely from riding the commuter rail from the suburbs to the city. And feeling grateful for the first time to be at least underemployed.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Romance and humor. A student classified a writer as such tonight in class and I loved that. Bleak romance and dark humor.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Bugs Bunny doing both genders.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Lying to his wife about losing his job, a man about to lose everything finds inspiration in the woman having an affair on the train.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I will have a  box-o-books with my name on the spine delivered to my door. I will have validation. Preferably in cash.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Tinkered around in the dark of winter, saw the light, wrote it in the summer. Came quick once I heard it. Three months. Read excerpts from six chapters last year at various reading series. Started third major rewrite in January 2013. Expect to be done in March, then writing group again, then my wife the ringer, then submitted by summer.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I don’t much like Updike yet Lyle has some Rabbit characteristics. The suburban pageantry and the economic collapse dovetail into characters who are estranged from themselves by the lies they perpetuate to assert a sense of identity. Earlier draft had the Affairess jumping in front of a train, so there’s some subconscious Anna Karenina. Sans threshing of the wheat. Takes place in February, the longest month of the year for Chicagoans, so it feels Russian at times, but with hope.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

It was fun. Then it became something that was saying something. I didn’t hold it in the same make-or-break regard as my first (unpublished) book, which was personal and which had to be perfect(it isn’t). This was pure (see #1)fiction, a daily discovery that led to creation, and it was fun. The inspiration was not thinking about the old novel anymore (still do).

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There’s a disturbing blow job scene.


Gint Aras, author of Finding The Moon in Sugar, editor of the Marriage section of the Good Men Project, professor at Morton Community College.

Amy Guth, author of Three Fallen Women, Social Media Manager at Tribune Media Company, RUI co-host.

Scott Miles, Pushcart-Prize nominated writer and author of The Downriver Horseshoe.

News & Notes 2013

We made it through a Thanksgiving snowstorm in the Poconos on our drive back from Philly, and Lil’ Griswald has never been better.

I’m excited for the new semester, where I’ll be teaching the Writer’s Portfolio to graduating seniors. Students build websites and compile print portfolios to prep for post-collegiate life.

A few reviews have been published since the last update, a few articles, a round-up of jams and jellies (spreadable fruit is delicious), had an essay in The Way We Sleep, but the busiest aspect has been the new editing job.

I’m the editor of the Dads & Families section of The Good Men Project, a progressive digital men’s magazine engaging in a conversation about the role of men in modern life. Like our facebook page. You’ll find stuff like this:

A meme from a 600-page epic? Sure it’s wordy, but what a brilliant book. No one does characterizations like Steinbeck. I’m indulging in the letters to his editor, collected in full in Journal of a Novel: The East of Eden Letters. Each time he sat down to write, he’d pen(cil) a note on the left-hand side of the notebook, musings on life and the novel, then write the manuscript on the right-hand side. I’ve been reading an page each morning, while it’s still dark and the house is quiet, goading me onward in rewrites of The Affairess.

News and Notes

Robert Duffer in the MinivanThanks for visiting my relaunched site, Duffer 2.0.

Along with the relaunch, I’d like to announce my new job editing the Dads & Families section for the Good Men Project.

In these pages, you’ll find samples and clips of my:

and me in my minivan. Click it to contact me. For more about me, go here or there.

Juli Duffer web designBig thanks to my sister, Juli Duffer, who helped migrate the design and content into this more self-sufficient platform. She is awesome and supremely talented and you should hire her because she can explain every single thing on any web page with ease and wit. This is her self portrait.