UI grad publishes book

BY PAUL OSGERBY | JUNE 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Long nights and sweaty car rides for 45 days on the road have culminated in a new memoir for recent University of Iowa graduate Hunter Sharpless.

“It’s a painful coming-of-age story,” he said. “I’ve wrestled with that ‘Three-Month Hunter’ for fours years now.”

Sharpless’ book, Song for the Fool, will be published in October by Wipf and Stock, which is based in Eugene, Oregon.

The book will recount the chronology of Sharpless’ tour with Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers from five different perspectives — one for each band member.

“We were intrigued by the proposal and the idea of the book: a young writer touring with a band,” Matthew Wimer, an assistant managing editor at Wipf and Stock, wrote in an email. “We are excited to see the final manuscript from a promising young writer completing his degree at one of the top-10 M.F.A. programs in the country.”

Sharpless, who discovered the band through a friend’s suggestion, said he found something genuinely earnest in the band members’ presence. With the musicians past their bashful youth stages, Sharpless said, he liked that Kellogg even wrote songs about his 6-year-old daughter.

In his freshman year, Sharpless took a leap of faith. He sent a message to the band about traveling with it on an upcoming tour in hopes of writing a memoir.

“I thought the email would go into oblivion,” he said.

To his surprise, the band members responded to his email, and they agreed to let him tag along.

“It was no question for me when he proposed an independent study,” said Brooks Landon, an English professor who sponsored Sharpless’ semester-long journey for the university. “Hunter is a writer with a capital ‘W’ — he cares and is dedicated to being a serious writer.”

In the fall of 2010, Sharpless flew out to New York City to meet the band. They crammed into a 15-passenger van pulling a trailer and set out for the road.

The band performed in front of audiences ranging from 60 in Fargo, North Dakota, to 1,300 in New York City.

Sharpless traveled across parts of the country he had never seen before, doing whatever was necessary for the band.

“Packing up after shows became my specialty,” Sharpless said.

When he returned from the road, Landon and Sharpless spent hours together digging through hundreds of pages of journal entries.

“Hunter cared about trying to understand the complications of being an indie musician: logistical and domestic,” Landon said. “He has a judicious eye and asks the tough questions.”

The band has since broken up, but Sharpless said he finds that all the more interesting.

Kellogg is touring Army bases in the Middle East, and he will set out for the road in late November as a solo act. Sharpless will tour alongside and open for Kellogg’s sets, reading from his upcoming book.

Sharpless just finished his second year in the nonfiction M.F.A. program at the University of Minnesota Twin-Cities. He is residing in Iowa City for the summer.

“The driving force of the book is basically about being wrong about what I expected,” Sharpless said. “I go out onto the road with all these preconceived ideas of what the road will be like, or what I’ve read about the road, or what I’ve seen in movies. It’s setting up a dichotomy of my own idea of the road and deconstructing that.”

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