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Roger Skipper: From Woodworker to Wordsmith

Frostburg State University student Roger Skipper is a craftsman. That fact, in itself, may not seem noteworthy. But the range of Skipper's output is, including a new novel, several published magazine articles, a variety of musical instruments and finished lumber stock.

One of Skipper's most recent accomplishments is the publication of his article "From Rough to Ready" in the November/December issue of Fine Woodworking, one of the highly regarded Taunton Press family of publications. His article offers tips to home woodworkers interested in finishing raw lumber into stock suitable for carpentry projects. Photographs and drawings throughout the six-page piece illustrate the process and equipment necessary.

He describes his success in getting the piece published as "very surprising." His one-page query letter resulted in an offer of publication. Not long after, in mid-summer, an editor and photographer appeared at his shop. Fine Woodworking has already requested another article from Skipper, and he has a small piece in a forthcoming issue.

"I would like to write for a living," said Skipper. That's my dream." He enrolled at FSU to hone his writing skills as an English major with a focus in creative writing. A full-time student, he is now a junior.

Like many non-traditional students, Skipper brings a wealth of connections and life experience to his studies. A native of Garrett County, he lives on five acres near Oakland.

He says he likes to change his life every two years or so. The family's reaction? "They've learned to live with it," he says with a grin. His previous lives include a stint in the military during the '70s, crunching numbers as the chief financial officer for the Fred E. Beachy Lumber Company in Oakland and 12 years of managing Beachy's store in Canaan Valley, W. Va.

He maintains his connection to wood by drying and finishing lumber, primarily red oak and black cherry, for small-scale woodworkers. He will also turn out a mandolin or violin by special order. A fan of bluegrass, Skipper could be a one-man band, given his ability to play guitar, mandolin, 5-string banjo and string bass, along with the proper recording device.

Skipper's writing has appeared in a variety of other publications besides Fine Woodworking. A story on the ginseng prevalent in the Oakland area was published in Fur, Fish and Game magazine, and Outdoor Life published his article on bears in Garrett County.

His short stories have appeared in the literary magazines Ginseng and Sunflower Dream, an article appeared in Purpose and an essay will appear in a 2002 issue of Live, a publication of the Assembly of God Church.

Skipper finds that "non-fiction magazines are desperate for good material," and is confident that he can continue to publish articles, given the right topics. But fiction is another story. "Novels are a crap-shoot for everyone, " he says.

He expresses some concern that publishers may be put off by his first novel's "unlikeable" protagonist, but says that quality is essential to what he describes as "a redneck coming-of-age novel." Skipper draws from his life in Western Maryland and West Virginia for the setting. The finished manuscript is now in the hands of his creative writing professor.

Regardless of whether his work is published or not, fiction is his greatest love. And now he's focusing on what he really wants to do when he grows up. "It's the best time of my life," he says.

For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589