Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
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SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Honoring Derek Alger

by Charles Salzberg

I’m still reeling over the untimely death of my good friend, Derek Alger. Derek and I met several years ago when he attended one of the New York Writers Workshop fiction pitch conferences. It turned out we had a friend in common, Tim Tomlinson, with whom Derek attended the Columbia MFA program.

Derek and I bonded immediately and, for good or bad, I was the one who introduced him to Facebook. Derek took to it immediately, far exceeding me in building a network of writers, editors, readers, and lovers of literature. He was immensely generous in “hooking” people up, trying to build this community.

And whenever we at a Greenpoint Press or the New York Writers Workshop had a project for which we needed to get the word out, Derek was there with the offer to interview our members or authors, like Ross Klavan, Patty Dann, Mindy Greenstein, and me.

Derek was a terrific interviewer. He’d write out thoughtful questions and then have you write the answers and the result was always a fascinating interview. The one he did with me is one of the best, simply because Derek knew what to ask and how to ask it.

Derek had big dreams of building a literary community where writers and readers and editors would help each other. He was responsible for having Pif and Greenpoint Press republish Dan Wakefield’s wonderful memoir, New York in the Fifties. His dream was to take all the interviews he’d done over the years and publish them in a book. Alas, that dream will not happen during his lifetime, but his interviews are still there, on Pif, on the web; and the essays he chose to publish when I asked him to take over as editor of essays on are a testament to his taste and drive to help writers have their voice heard.

Derek is the reason that Duff Brenna has reviewed two of my books. “Send it to Duff,” he urged. “He’ll review your books.” And Duff did, writing two of the most perceptive reviews written about my work.

Derek’s body is gone, but his spirit lives on, with the many friends he made and the people he helped. I feel especially bad because for weeks I’d been meaning to give him a call, to check in on him, but something always seemed to get in the way. Derek, this is the call I’d been meaning to make. You will be missed. By me, by your friends, by all the people you’ve touched over the years. RIP, Derek Alger.

—First posted on Facebook, 30 October 2014; published here by author’s permission


SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Derek Alger
(18 Nov 1953–29 Oct 2014)

was a graduate of the MFA fiction-writing program at Columbia University, a Contributing Editor for Serving House Journal, and a former editor-at-large at Pif Magazine, where more than 100 of his interviews with writers have been published over a period of 14 years.

Seven of those interviews appear in Serving House Journal, with four reprinted from Pif and three published here for the first time (Terese Svoboda, SHJ-2; Lauren B. Davis, SHJ-5; and Bruce Holbert, SHJ-7). The complete list appears in our index.

Derek Alger’s fiction and essays appear in Confrontation, Del Sol Review,, The Literary Review, and Writers Notes, among others.

“One on One” Archive of the interviews at Pif Magazine
• Derek Alger’s interview of Charles Salzberg (31 July 2009)


SHJ Issue 10
Fall 2014

Charles Salzberg

is a New-York based novelist, journalist, and writing instructor.

More information at author’s website

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury