top of page

Creative Nonfiction

Essays. Personal narratives. Creative nonfiction. Call it what you want, I love the form. At its best it is the art of discovery, an exploration into the subjectivity of truth. Fact is to journalism what truth is to creative nonfiction. It is not a statement as much as a suggestion.

Essays and other nonfiction have been published in New York Times, Chicago Tribune, HLNtv, Huffington Post, Hypertext Magazine, Good Men Project, broadcast on WBEZ's 848, performed live at 2nd Story, RUI: Reading Under the Influence, and other reading series.  


Why the road atlas still matters

"On a recent road trip with my kids I couldn't find an atlas, and when I asked around at service stations, convenience stores and online, people responded as if I were seeking out a cassette player.
My tweens said there was a map in the dashboard, a map in my smartphone, and maps in their tablets and on the built-in seat-back consoles.
I was determined to teach them the big-picture joys of the atlas before it goes the way of the manual transmission, the V-8 engine, the CD player...

Calvin catch_Jean Phillips.jpg

To have a catch

"Catching a ball is a complex act that we, as old hands, take for granted. When objects are hurtling at you, the instinct is to duck, dodge and evade -- the flight response. In a game of catch, we are teaching our kids the fight response: to face it.

The act of learning how to catch is not just the application of hand-eye coordination: it requires timing, courage, and maybe, more than anything, trust. Trust in themselves to do it, but firstly trust from the person who is throwing it. It should be us.

An argument for parents to teach their kids how to catch a ball, first published on Huffington Post>>>

maria and dad holding hands.jpg

Daughter to Dad: Girlie pajama, please

"My daughter loves other superhero or franchise sticks like Spider-Man: T-shirts, boxers, sweatshirts, her favorite shoes, her favorite drinking glass, her favorite car, her favorite puzzle, the action figures on her night stand that she rearranges before bedtime, her pajamas.

So when it was pajama day at gymnastics, and her Spidey pjs were clean, I was stunned when she shook her head no.

Another parenting essay, this time published in the "Motherlode" section in The New York Times. Read it here>>>


Rituals matter, especially in divorce

I don’t know how to talk about divorce so I just drop a line here or up there, a steel toe on the ice to see if it cracks. It’s so exhausting and all-consuming that I barely discuss it personally: The specter of doing it publicly haunts me. I doubt these paragraphs will survive the edit. Yet I’m so tired of hiding it and succumbing to the guilt and shame of failing my family that I haven’t talked about what it actually means.

One of dozens of essays published at The Good Men Project, and the most personal. Read it here>>>


Written driver's exam still intimidates veteran driver

"The last time I had taken the written driving test was the first time, about 25 years ago. I was driving my brother's 4-speed Mustang back then. It had a tape deck.
So much has changed, except for the written driving exam, still administered with paper and pencil. I had more to lose this time around — namely, my job.

No amount of seat time or googling prepared me for this:
Who should you notify in a crash when you are not at fault?
In commercial district, what is the correct distance to indicate a left turn before turning?

Read all about taking and tips for passing the test here>>>

maria catching leaves.jpg

The joy of catching leaves

The first time she stopped at the donut, the wind was making it rain leaves from the tall maple trees that shroud the street. She tried catching one, it was cute, but I had work to do. I pestered her to get moving. Then she caught one, on a zig zag irregular and unpredictable pattern; we both cheered and she handed it to me to put in my pocket. She asked to help. So I did. We staggered like drunks, shadow boxing an invisible menace, catching manna from heaven.

One of dozens of essays published at The Good Men Project.

Radio & Podcasts

Blindspot (Reading Out Loud)

Reading Out Loud collective performs Robert Duffer's short story "Blindspot" season 3,  episode 10. 

Passing the Cubs Torch...Or Not (Eight Forty-Eight)

Writer Robert Duffer hopes he can keep his son from falling into the trap of Cubs fandom. 

Reflections on the Credit Crunch (Eight Forty-Eight)

The credit crunch bringing down investment banks and mortgage companies can be traced to a lot of bad loans. But not everyone got in on the largesse.  

Anniversary of the Smoking Ban (Eight Forty-Eight)

Bartender Robert Duffer comments on what work life is like one year after the smoking ban. 

On Gentrification (Eight Forty-Eight)

Essay on the pros of gentrification in Uptown and Albany Park neighborhoods. This has not been archived on WBEZ's site.  

Interview (This Podcast Will Change Your Life)

Ben Tanzer interviews Robert Duffer over falafel on Jeweler's Row at The Oasis Cafe. 

Interview (You, Me, Them, Everybody!)

Brandon Weatherbee interviews Robert Duffer at the Printers Ball afterparty. 

bottom of page