Richard Wertime premiered his unreleased novel San Giovanni in suburban Philadelphia, on Oct. 20.

Wertime, the acclaimed author of Citadel On The Mountain, is a Ph.D professor of English and the Director of Graduate Studies in Humanities at Arcadia University, in Glenside, Pennsylvania. He has been teaching people to write since 1975. Another thing to know about Wertime: he would be appalled at the previous sentence. Better it read: Richard Wertime, molding the minds of would-be writers for nearly thirty years.

His work has appeared in The Hudson Review, The Yale Review, Ploughshares, and Southwest Review, among others. He was the Senior Contributing Editor at Archaeology for 23 years. His honors include the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation Grant, the James A. Michener Award, and the Lindback Prize for teaching.

He is an instructor who has boiled the work down to practical theory. To Wertime, sentences are equations. Sound values of words, grammatical drivers seat, metaphoric imagery, balance of wet and dry effects- these are common phrases that slip off his tongue.

I could smell the stench of the rotting garbage in the alleyway.

Weakness: The repetition of smell, rotting, garbage.

Weakness: Perception openerI could smell, I could hear, I could see.


What are the Strong Effects of this sentence?

Stench, garbage, alleyway.

Write three new sentences that place the Strong Effects in the Grammatical Driver's Seat.

The stench

The garbage

The alleyway.


Now choose a powerhouse verb. Don't be afraid to get creative.



(verb utilization is militaristic in tone)

The stench of the garbage barreled through the alleyway.

The stench of the garbage plowed through the alleyway.


Wertimes latest novel is a fiction work with supernatural undertones, set in the Tuscany region. The town named in the title is based on the real life location of Montisi. After many trips, after composing a book, he said reality sometimes gets confused with imagination. On his most recent vacation, he looked at the town and exclaimed, "This isn't right!" because he had so internalized San Giovanni.


San Giovanni tells the tale of the Porter family. Matt is an art historian, and Linda, an artist. Annie- their ghostly young daughter- is the crux of the story, literally the lifeblood.

Wertime painted each scene with precision. He wrote with cinema in mind, even envisioning who would direct and star. It is a book about flawed parenting, about illness and healing- and it is about sacrifice, he said.

Beauty of language has a secondary role for the reader of fiction, whom we hope to sweep up in the power of the story. We want our reader to be steadily interested in our language, but not to the degree that it detracts from our things, to use Chekhov's term.- R. Wertime

Citadel on the Mountain, the book that made him famous, is the story of Wertimes troubled relationship with his father Ted, an abusive man. The title derived from the fortress Ted built his family in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania. Of the house, pictured on the books dust jacket, Wertime said, It floats like an eagle there on the mountain. Its a stunning site.

A tourist attraction these days, the homes current owners are adjusting to their newfound fame. The man who lives there now said he and his girlfriend used to stare up at it, from the valley below. They wondered what it would be like to live inside, Wertime said, noting the similar personalities. He is just like my father.


The house is Ted, an unreachable man- mammoth, mysterious, cold and unforgiving.


Wertime composed the last chapter of Citadel first; a return visit that is pure fantasy, the massive, windowed place- now decrepit- has fallen victim to time. It is covered in bird feces and spiderwebs.


The hardest part of the creative process was recognizing where life ended and the book began. There was a struggle over how much to reveal. And he battled with his devotion to family members, weighing loyalty against artistic truth.

In the end, friends like Tobias Wolfe complimented him on his unswerving honesty. Bless you, Dick. You did it, Wolfe wrote Wertime in a congratulatory letter.

His agent initially doubted the books appeal, saying he feared it would only be relevant to men. Thats not been the case at all, Dr. Richard Wertime said, noting most people can identify with victimization.


Recommended link for (over)writers.



A frequent contributor to online and print publications, Moore is best known for her massive collection of Tom Snyder quotes. "You know the two things I like best about Larry King?  His face!" Visit her blog, updated semi-weekly, where she rips on Visa, why the world is the way it is, and other earth shattering topics.