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ARTIST PROFILE: Christopher Locke enjoying the writer’s life

August 10, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer (gkelly@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

UPPER JAY - At 49, Christopher Locke has published "seven or eight" books, he said, plus two plays. He has earned several literary awards, is routinely published in more than 100 publications worldwide, teaches at two locations, and somehow finds time to be a husband to his wife, Lisa, and a dad to his teenage daughters, Grace and Sophie.

Not bad for a guy who describes himself while in 10th grade as "pretty directionless" and whose penchant for drugs, deceit and punk rock culture made him somewhat less than Mr. Most-Likely-To-Succeed.

He and his family have lived in the Adirondacks for about five years but came within a day or so of settling out in Las Vegas, where he had accepted a teaching position.

Article Photos

Christopher Locke
(Photo provided — Steve Lester)

"As we were literally getting ready to start packing for our move out west, the NSA (National Sports Academy) called and offered Lisa a teaching job. She wanted to be closer to her family in New Hampshire, so here we are instead," he said. "Then the school closed a year and a half later."

So Lisa took a position at NCCC while Christopher, being a wine expert, went to work as a sommelier for the Lake Placid Lodge and Whiteface Lodge.

"I had a lot of fun doing that," he said. "I got to go to France. The money was pretty good. But I did miss teaching, so I decided to make the move."

Now Christopher teaches English 102 at North Country Community College and creative writing at the Ray Brook Federal Correctional Institution, where he has had "some pretty powerful experiences I never anticipated," such as the time when an inmate unabashedly declared how love had inspired him to write a certain poem.

"The cool thing is that this course is for guys who are close to leaving, so there's more commitment from them to apply themselves and get it right," he said.

Like his wife, Christopher is also a New Hampshire native. They met while both were attending Keene State College in their home state.

As a young child, his father worked as a radio deejay and occasionally as a cashier at a corner store while his mother worked at a shoe store. She slept a lot when she was home, which meant that he and his brother had to learn how to entertain themselves quietly.

"This included sitting in the basement and reading through the stacks of history books my father had stored there, hiding out at the local library, and even writing my own stories," he told Pif magazine in 2011.

Christopher attended a private Christian school, where his third-grade teacher read such bland and "painfully moral" stories that he knew he could come up with something better.

"My first piece was about a skunk, two boys camping, and a lot of bodily functions. My teacher was outraged. It was then I knew I was on to something," he said.

At this time, Christopher's family attended a Pentecostal church that conducted highly emotional weekly services that involved the casting of demons from people's bodies, after which they might flail about and collapse on the floor "like a dishrag" as other members would stand over them and sing inspirational songs.

"So I believed, 8 years old or whatever, that this is what everyone in America did on Sundays: go to church, watch your neighbors have demons cast out of their bodies, go home and have a nice family dinner," he said. "Totally normal. My poem 'Possessed' [from the chapbook of the same name] highlights this time in my life."

While in high school, Christopher's family moved from Laconia to Exeter where his parents later divorced. In an effort to establish a unique sense of identity apart from "the jock culture that dominated our school," he got into punk rock, which he still enjoys, and devoted considerable effort to adopting the punk look by wearing eyeliner and ripped jeans to school that had the names of various punk bands written all over them. He also adopted a series of unhealthy social habits that cost him a number of friends.

Christopher's life began to turn around for the better, he said, thanks to one teacher who saw something exceptional in his writing and encouraged him to do more.

"It was thrilling. I mean, here was an actual adult, and she spoke to me like ... an equal! Or at the very least without contempt. I took her kindness and care with me into the world. It's probably why I became a teacher myself," he said.

The first year and a half he spent after high school, however, didn't reflect much in terms of direction until his mother and stepfather paid for his first semester at Keene State, where things changed in a hurry. This was where he decided he wanted to be a poet as he discovered the writings of Gary Soto, Robert Hayden, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, John Keats and Beat poets such as Allen Ginsberg.

Prior to moving to the Adirondacks, Christopher had taught high school English for some 12 years and said he identifies well with teenagers and the awkwardness many experience as they search for who they are and a place for themselves in the world.

He got his first teaching job at a newly opened facility for troubled teens in Cummington, Massachusetts while finishing up his master's degree and working as a waiter where he overheard a table full of school officials discussing how they might find themselves an English teacher.

"Well, funny you should mention that," he told them with a grin.

When asked where he sees himself in five years Christopher said, "Still writing, still publishing, and still being a husband and a dad."

His next book for children titled, "Heart Flight," is due out next spring.

Excerpts could be available online in the fall, Locke said, and he is looking forward to having professionals market this book for the first time as opposed to the do-it-yourself method he has always used before.

"I've done book tours for the past 25 years, but this is the first time where I just get to sit back and wait for them to tell me where to go next," he said. "It's nothing like the old days where I would do a reading where only five people would show up, three of whom are my relatives, and I make only 10 bucks at the end."

As Locke approaches the half century mark he reflects fondly on where his life has taken him.

"I love what I do, being a dad, a husband, a writer and teacher," he said. "And punk music is still very important to me."

 
 

 

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