Dayton poet finds publishing success with debut collection

I need to start this column with a caveat: I’m not at all surprised that T.J. McGuire, whose debut poetry collection “Mid-Life Chrysler” just recently released, has achieved publishing success.

T.J. has served as a volunteer for the summer program of the Antioch Writers’ Workshop (, for which I work as director, and I can attest to his strong work ethic, willingness to learn, and sheer awe of poets and writers who are willing to share their insight and expertise.

Not only that, but T.J., a Dayton-area native and resident, won poetry scholarships to the workshop in 2014 and 2015; won the Paul Laurence Dunbar Memorial Poetry Prize in 2005; and was a finalist in the 2016 Slipper Elm Prize awarded by the University of Findlay. His poems have been published in Flights (the literary journal of Sinclair Community College), Mock Turtle Zine (the locally published literary ‘zine), and Slippery Elm literary journal.

But T.J. says his roots in writing poetry go back all the way to his rock band days in the late 1990s.

“I was in a band, Fair and Bazaar, with my younger brother and a few others,” T.J. explains. “We were a mix of folk and psychedelic rock. I was the singer-songwriter. What I quickly discovered, though, was that I loved writing more than the late nights singing in bars.”

He also traces his roots in poetry writing to his wife, who was also his high school sweetheart.

“I wrote my first poem for Jennifer,” T.J. says, “and even took it to her at work. It was … a horrible poem! But she said she loved it.”

His wife, T.J. says, is still his first reader.

T.J. worked for several years in the Dayton Metro Library system, but after he and his wife had children, they quickly realized that one of them needed to be a stay-at-home parent. His wife continued in her job, and T.J. is a stay-at-home dad in addition to being a writer.

“It’s funny … I thought I’d have an abundance of time. It turns out that being the full-time at-home parent and caretaker of the home takes a great deal of time. Not that I’m complaining. I love it,” T.J. says. “But I quickly realized I’d need to set specific times to write as well, or I’d never get anything done.”

For a time, T.J. turned to writing fiction, a genre which still interests him.

“My father-in-law, though, always loved my poetry. He made me feel brilliant when he’d talk about my poetry, and always told me, ‘Don’t forget poetry!’” T.J. says. “When he passed away, I wrote his eulogy. I started thinking about poetry again, and submitted a poem to Mock Turtle, which was published in 2013.”

Since then, T.J. says, he’s been on a roll with publishing.

T.J. says he admires many poets, including locally Herbert Woodward Martin, David Lee Garrison, Matthew Birdsall (all of whom provided outstanding blurbs for T.J.’s collection, and Fred Kirchner, who organized the Gem City Poetry Stage series of readings.

He also credits his mother as an inspiration for his writing. “She was the reader of the house when I was growing up,” T.J. says. “I found my love of books through her.”

T.J.'s collection is available via or through his publisher's website. His publisher is Alabaster Leaves Publishing, an imprint of Kelsay Books (


• Friday, Feb. 3, 7:00-8:30 p.m., Wright Memorial Public Library, 1776 Far Hills Ave., Oakwood — Writers' Café, a casual hang out for writers ages 18 and up and of all experience levels, meets the first Friday and third Sunday (at 2:30) of each.

"Word's Worth Writing Center ( events, held in the community room of the Oakwood Starbucks, 2424 Far Hills Ave., Dayton:

  • Breaking Bad Writing with 'Breaking Bad,'" Word's Worth Writing Center, Thursdays February 2-March 2, 6:30-8:30 p.m.—Author and creative writing teacher Katrina Kittle ( will lead this unique writing class inspired by the popular, award-winning television show "Breaking Bad." Students are not required to have watched the series. Learn more and register at the center's website.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m., "First Tuesday Writing Workout," Word's Worth Writing Center — each month, Word's Worth holds an "informal tune-up" for writers to recharge their creative batteries with writing prompts, mini-craft lessons, and more. Learn more and register at the center's website.

Antioch Writers' Workshop, LitSalon Fundraiser with Author Tim Wagonner, Feb. 12, 4-7 p.m. — The workshop ( has opened registration to its next LitSalon Fundraiser, featuring award-winning and prolific horror, fantasy and science fiction author Tim Wagonner. ( The event will be held at the home of the workshop's board acting president, Kate Geiselman. All proceeds from LitSalon fundraisers help support the workshop's summer program scholarships and Young Writers program. Learn more and register via the workshop's website.

• Thursday, Feb. 16, 6:30-8:00 p.m., Dayton Metro Library, Community Room of Kettering Moraine branch (3496 Far Hills Ave., Kettering) — "You're a Real Character: Defining Self in Creative Nonfiction." Learn tips and techniques for writing personal essays. Led by author Erin Flanagan ( Free and open to the public.

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