Welcome to my personal website
. I’m Terry, of course, and I write novels, short stories, articles and poems. Most of my work is available on Amazon in book form and includes war stories as well as what I call antagonistic fiction. I welcome all comers, but here’s the deal, I am primarily a literary fiction writer. I’ve said this before, more than once probably, but I think it’s still worth repeating: I am fiction personified. I like to make stuff up, but I also like to say something important at the same time, something lasting. I think that’s what we call literature. I also want to antagonize readers, spur them to think, perhaps even to act. However, I want participants here (bloggers, for instance) to take anything I say with a grain of pepper, for this should be dialogue not lecture.
I was born in Oklahoma and spent my early youth in upstate New York. In 1965, I graduated high school, started college that same year at the University of Oklahoma (OU), then dropped out (flunked out, really) and joined the Marine Corps in early 1966. I served a tour in Vietnam as a “grunt” from October 1966 to November 1967 assigned to Golf Company of the 26th Marine Regiment and was wounded in May 1967. In December 1969, I got out of the Marine Corps and immediately re-enrolled at OU where I graduated with an English Literature degree in 1977. After that, I completed two years of graduate-level literature studies, then went to work at OU until 1996.
I’m a member of The 26th Marines Association and Flinch Forward, as well as a life member of The American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars, The Disabled American Veterans, and The Khe Sanh Veterans Association. I have several military awards which are listed in my Toots section, as well as an honorable discharge (not all that easy for a thinking individualist, by the way). In that section, you will also find that in 1977 I was awarded the University of Oklahoma’s Vernon L. Parrington Writing Prize. Currently, I’m a writer (an author mostly) living in Estes Park, Colorado. The Second Tour: Soul Injury
, my first novel, was begun in 1984 and took almost twenty-five years to come out with the first edition. My novel, Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse
, was begun in 1995 and finished in 2013. It’s what I call Antagonistic Fiction, a work whose main character is the antagonist. Three excerpts from Suffering Seacil
were previously published in online journals.
Turning more deeply into my writing, my work, how do I even begin to define it without defining myself, without narrowing down who I am? Nicknames perhaps exemplify this. In grade school they called me Skip, Skipper or Skippy, I guess because I liked to skip everywhere and was better at it than even the girls. In high school they called me Rock. Don’t ask why; it’s a long story and a misnomer anyway. In Vietnam I was Rootie, mostly because a friend there couldn’t say Rizzuti. After that I was Roscoe & Rizzo for several years, then Tooto in graduate school. Now I’m pretty much just T or T-Man.
I think what this says is that others have had trouble defining me, too, and have thus boiled me down to one letter, the least common denominator of written language. And I think this is true also of my writing which has led to difficulty finding traditional publishers. After all, how do you define that which refuses to fit within a single genre or standard category? So I usually just call my stuff literary fiction because that’s what I strive for — a sense that what I’ve created is literature as opposed to “just a story” or “just a novel” — the distinction being that literature not only entertains but through metaphor achieves a didactic function as well. I therefore first and foremost seek that mysterious interface between form and function, i.e., the relationship between the structure of a piece and its message, with the hope that this leads to advancing the craft.
And, if showcased in one place like it is here, I’ve always wanted all my work called Food for Thought Fiction, because hopefully each piece makes you think. Additionally, I’ve titled an anthology of my short stories Heads or Tales
because when you try to pin one of my stories down, label it, it’s a toss of the coin whether you’ve selected the right category.
Notice that I haven’t mentioned poetry. That’s because I’m ashamed to admit that my “stuff” is so weak, so amateurish, it doesn’t even rate mentioning, but now that I have mentioned it, note that I’ve collected most of my poems in one place and made them available on Amazon under the title Crap Shoot
. Nevertheless, I plug away at poetry hoping someday I’ll improve. I forget who once said (but I think it was Faulkner), that a novelist is a failed short story writer, and a short story writer is a failed poet. Could be some truth in that, but I don’t believe it for a second. I think we all write in whichever form best speaks through us at any given moment, whichever form best matches our immediate voice.
Anyway, perhaps it’s relevant that I was raised Italian-American in upstate New York, which gave me a strong sense of what it feels like to be discriminated against. And perhaps four years in the Marine Corps, including one in a warzone where I was wounded, gave me some further sense that all is not right in the world, that all these centuries later we shouldn’t still be killing each other with such glee and abandonment. And certainly my study of literature clarified for me a desire to write about war, especially its effects on “the little guy,” and particularly my psyche. But it wasn’t until some 20 years later that I found myself drawn to other subjects, for example veterans’ issues, strong women living difficult lives, and even children’s stories.
And maybe it’s relevant that my major literary influences have been
the mid-19th century writers like Thoreau, Hawthorne and Melville, as well as the 20th century works of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. I’m especially drawn to anything with dark humor and contemporary writing aspects. My absolute favorite writer is Cormac McCarthy, whose command of the English language supersedes that of anyone writing today. I’m so glad he finally got a Pulitzer, and that maybe now his masterpiece Blood Meridian
will get the recognition it deserves.
It could further be relevant that over the past 25 years, I have become a big believer in therapeutic art (i.e., art as therapy), whether that art takes the form of writing, music, painting, wood working, or any other creative means of channeling negative energies into positive outcomes. Specifically, what I’ve discovered is that writing can add a layer of fiction between its creator and his “real” or actual experience, that that layer of fiction creates a buffer zone within which the writer can “play around” with the experience in ways that are therapeutic. In essence, I’m saying my writing has become for me a lifeboat in an otherwise inner tempestuous storm of intrusive thoughts and feelings, and a legacy I can be proud of. That’s not to say that art erases the turbulence, not by any stretch, but rather that it provides a means of psychic survival. I’m very thankful for that, personally, and I hope my work can provide some similar value for readers.
As I've said, my work is difficult to categorize
. It’s all over the map. I’m a literaturist, a word that isn’t but should be. (See, I like to make stuff up.) I have written and will write about anything, but my specialty is war. And to me, literary war novels are the essence of great literature. They’re born under fire and speak to us about the unspeakable; they give us some of our deepest lessons about the human condition by bringing us our villains and, more importantly, our heroes.
And for those of us that create war fiction based on personal experience
, it often functions as self-therapy
, becoming part of that body of work some call therapeutic art. But it does something else, too. It provides some of us a door through which to re-enter humanity, however socially disadvantaged we might be; while for others less confident in ourselves, it provides a window, a peephole for pretending we’re participants in a civilized world unlike the one we’ve left behind, the one we’ve thought of as pure hell on Earth.
Time will tell, of course, but I think my best work is probably
my war novel, The Second Tour: Soul Injury
. It has been taught at five universities and one other institution: it’s been taught in an honors seminar called Stories From Wartime
at Regis University in Denver; it’s been taught in the Behavioral Sciences and the English departments at the US Air Force Academy; it’s been taught in a Political Sciences honors course at the University of Kentucky; it’s been taught in English Literature classes that focus on Trauma topics at George Washington University; it’s been taught in the English department at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, Washington; and it’s been taught in a Fiction Reading group of psychoanalysts at the George Washington Psychoanalytic Institute.
All that said, Suffering Seacil: For Better or For Worse
, is not a war novel at all, even though several combat scenes are interspersed throughout. Instead, it’s what I call Antagonistic Fiction (more evidence of making stuff up), stories whose main character is the antagonist, a bad guy representing one of society’s major ills — in this case the antagonist is a perpetrator of toxic relationships. In effect, Antagonistic Literature serves as a catalyst, a call to action, so please join me in the fight to raise our children in a culture that respects all people regardless of differences.
My most recent novel is called The Triplets: As They Lay Dying
. It’s contemporary, experimental fiction, a collage of short stories, poems, miscellaneous thoughts and feelings woven into a short novel spanning several generations. The Triplets
showcases the disparate lives and deaths of three siblings individually struggling to survive intersecting political and viral pandemics. The subtitle is a takeoff on my favorite writer, William Faulkner, who wrote As I Lay Dying
, the single book that influenced me as a student of literature, as well as launched my entire writing “career.”
I also have a book called Dear Me: An Honorary Ph.D. in Letters
. It’s a collection of about 170 letters I wrote to my high school sweetheart between 1964 and April 1969. They tell a one-sided story from the perspective of a concussed, homesick Marine that can be grouped into five major parts: 1) one letter written in high school and a few in my first two semesters of college just before joining the Marine Corps; 2) several letters written from Marine Corps boot camp, as well as Infantry Training; 3) several letters written aboard the USNS Barrett, a Merchant Marine ship taking approximately 1,500 soldiers and 500 of us Marines to Vietnam; 4) numerous letters written from Vietnam; and 5) several letters written post-Vietnam. The letters mostly show an attempt by the writer to establish and maintain a lifeline with home, and thus normalcy. For the most part they are rather “typical” of chatty love letters, but every now and then there’s a jewel that reveals just how difficult things had become for the writer, but even more so just how juvenile, immature and sometimes downright obnoxious and inconsiderate I was. The letters in this book are provided warts and all, with political and other incorrectness, as well as misspellings and other language issues.
Let me add just a few final thoughts:Accomplishments
: I have 5* Book Reviews from sources that include AllBooks Reviews
, Midwest Book Review
and others that can be found here on my website and at Amazon. I have been published by Greenwood Press, and in the following print/on-line journals: War, Literature & the Arts
, Unlikely Stories
, Octopus Beak Inc
, and Connecticut Review
. And like every fiction writer I’ve ever met, I look forward to the day I’m awarded a prize for the latest Great American Novel.Copyright
: This website and all its contents are copyrighted by Terry P. Rizzuti. This opens me up to fraud and plagiarism, so I’m trusting in everyone’s honesty. Please ask my permission through my Contact form before copying. Thank you.
And, for a closing thought
: I like to think I was born a warrior with the fighting skills of a stuffed toy — so here’s hoping my pen is mightier than a sword.
I thank you
all for your interest in my work, and I hope you enjoy my website.