Full of hardships, poverty, drugs, profanity and hope, Dan Denton’s first published novel deserves to be classified as “living poetry,” as described in the book’s introduction. “$100-A-Week Motel” brings readers into the world of an unnamed narrator, trying to navigate life and relationships with others while struggling to survive day to day, $100 week to $100 week. What’s truly impressive is the love and humor that manages to shine through, reminding us of our humanity and our hope for continuous improvement.
Shutdowns and Ideas
Denton has had a knack with words since third grade, earning him runner-up in a young authors contest. He immersed himself in reading paperbacks and poems, composing in his head, sometimes writing down or reading to others, while working in midwestern factories. It wasn’t until recent years that Denton began putting his work out there for the public to read. With two chapbooks published, “Bury My Heart in the Gutter” (2018) and “Give Us This Day Our Daily Grind: an Ode to the American Factory Worker” (2020), he also has other writings available online, in newspapers and in anthologies.
So why shift to writing a book and where did the idea for this story come from? This past year and a half have been trying times and Denton’s book is a product of sifting through old memories and deciding it was time to finally publish his work, as he had always dreamed.
Denton built himself a basement home studio and began attending Zoom poetry readings. Being around creative individuals inspired him, leading him to start working on writing both at home and even during breaks at his job, as Union Steward at the Jeep plant. In three short months, the book was completed. “During this pandemic I realized how different my life is today versus how it was 15 years ago when I quit drinking. If the pandemic would have happened then, when I was in a halfway house with 35 other men, it would not have been as comfortable an experience as it was for me now.”
This book was a big step in the right direction for Denton, something he did to talk about the truth of his past, his struggles with addiction and his mental health.
Humble and Authentic
“A lot of people like to write about characters that are addicted to drugs or write about people that are poor, but how many of them that write those stories actually lived that life, and almost died from it? How many people write about what it’s like to be a working person and actually work in factories for 20 years?”
While the authenticity of the experiences are undeniable, Denton reminds readers that this is not a memoir. The narrator is bits and pieces of himself and his own experience combined with others, and different parts of his life were arranged to accommodate the motel setting. The other characters have the blended traits and personalities of multiple people. “I try to write very carefully. No matter which way we try to tell the story, being a homeless drug addict and alcoholic or living in cheap motels like I did when I was younger, there’s a lot of sadness there. A lot of times living like that is desperate and hopeless and dark.”
Copies of “$100-a-Week Motel” are available at Gathering Volumes in Perrysburg and through the nonprofit organization bookshop.org, at a slightly reduced price. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books A Million stock the book, as well. Listen to Denton’s podcast, The Blue-Collar Gospel Hour, where he casually interviews and chats with other artists and musicians.