Montana State University

Keeler adds novel to list of accomplishments

December 22, 2011 -- By Carol Schmidt, MSU News Service

Greg Keeler, an award-winning English professor at MSU who is also a poet, memoirist, troubadour, painter, playwright and fisherman of some repute, recently published five books, including his first novel. MSU photo by Kelly Gorham.   High-Res Available

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
Greg Keeler is the proverbial Renaissance man, the jack of many artistic trades. In addition to being a prize-winning professor of English at Montana State University, he is also a poet, memoirist, troubadour, painter, playwright and fisherman of some repute.

Now add maker of books to that list. Keeler published five books this fall, all under his own label. They include two volumes of poems: "Dead West" and "Lord of Nothing," a volume of humorous poems, "New Improved Coyote: Travesties by Greg Keeler," "Forgettable: The Collected Songs of Greg Keeler" and Keeler's first novel, "Painting Water." The covers of all of the books are Keeler paintings, save for the "Coyote" book, which features a roll of toilet paper. That is the kind of honesty and irreverence that Keeler's readers have come to expect from him.

"It's kind of fun," said Keeler of self-publishing. "I found I enjoyed the process."

Previously, Keeler published three memoirs and nine volumes of poetry through commercial publishers.

"I have been lucky. I've had a lot of friends who were publishers, and they came to me," Keeler said. "I really didn't have to do anything to get published." Those books included "Waltzing with the Captain: Remembering Richard Brautigan," about Keeler's long-time friendship with the talented and controversial writer. Keeler helped Brautigan get an adjunct teaching position at MSU in the early 1980s.

Keeler's books also include his memoir, "Trash Fish: A Life," published in 2008 by Counterpoint Press.

"I like and appreciate and like all the people who published my work, but I like self-publishing because it gives me complete control over everything (in the book process) from writing to layout to printing," he said.

In short, it is a creative enterprise for someone who excels at creativity. Keeler is one of MSU's most recognized professors in the humanities. He has received a Governor's Award for the Humanities, has been designated an MSU Distinguished Professor for the College of Letters and Science, has received nearly every award the university gives for teaching, including last year's James and Mary Ross Provost's Award for Excellence for bringing to life poetry and literature in his classroom. His work has been featured on NPR shows including "All Things Considered" and "Writer's Almanac."

In addition, he is a painter of considerable skill. The cover art on his recent books reflect some of his favorite locations in the Bozeman area.

Yet, he has never tried writing a novel before, and he thought it was time to try. He explained that as a professor of creative writing, he teaches fiction writing to students, so he felt it would be good to have some practical experience and perspective in the area. He applied for and received a grant that enabled him to go to an isolated cabin in western Montana to write the novel.

His novel is told through a fictional English professor named Clinton Stanford. While there are some similarities with the book's protagonist and Keeler's life, the book is a flight of fancy. He said he tried to write the kind of story he likes to read -- "(a story) that pulls you through them."

Known for his searing and direct memoirs, Keeler said his fiction is emotionally honest, if factually invented. He said he warmed up for writing fiction like he does for anything he writes -- by writing a poem or two in sonnet form.

"It's (a form) that comes naturally to me, for some reason," he said of the poetic form of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter.

Keeler said he may publish more fiction in the future, but he is certain that he will publish more books.
He said he suspected that he had enough material for a book or two, but was surprised that he had enough for five books -- six if you count a fable that he illustrated and made into a book for his grandchildren that isn't included in the set.

"I could probably publish another one next week if I wanted, but I don't want to overdo it."

Keeler's new books are available at The Country Bookshelf in Bozeman and Elk River Books in Livingston.

"I don't know where I am going with this, but I like to make the books and I want to see what people think of them," he said.

Greg Keeler (406) 994-5188