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The Hoosier School

In the late 19th through the early 20th Century, Indiana produced more best-selling novelists than any state except for New York. Indiana has been fertile ground for writers of all genres. One theme running through much of this work from James Whitcomb Riley to Gene Porter Stratton to Ernie Pyle to Scott Russell Sanders, has been the importance of place in everyday life. My own work over the years has been produced in small rented spaces around Bloomington. I respect this creative legacy and it continues to inspire me. I do love to write. Over the years, I’ve filled up lots of notebooks in longhand.

The Hoosier School was a term used to describe this community of authors, poets, and songwriters who used life in Indiana as a lens to observe the American experience. They felt an awareness of the natural world and the integrity of the small town was essential to the quality of our lives going forward. This proved to be the antithesis of the consumer-driven, hyper-urbanized environment that has gradually come to dominate our culture. Books like Sister Carrie and The Magnificent Ambersons and songs like On The Banks Of The Wabash Far Away spoke of these looming dangers over a century ago, forecasting some inconvenient truths about the path we have taken since. I realize as an American, I have often benefited from traveling this path. I also occasionally mistrust the map I follow. 

The past tends to reward my curiosity because it is so often open to discovery and interpretation. Much of my writing is narrative, a constant theme being small but defining personal experiences. The songs, audio essays, and film scripts each average between two and four minutes. Apparently, this is a good time signature for me. One of the first storytellers to inspire me was Charles Schultz, who created the Peanuts comic strip. His dailies were always contained in four frames: see it, tell it, end it.

Across the range of what I do, I try to reflect the quiet presence of my old Pendleton barn coat: well-stitched, simple lines, big pockets. I hope in exploring tomroznowski.net, you’ll be encouraged to slip on some of my work and carry it back home with you.

Tom Roznowski