Monday, June 30, 2008

The Morning Reading:"permission to be the person you want to be"

Barbara DeMarco Barrett, host of KUCI's "Writers on Writing" has posted her interview with writer Charles Baxter on her blog, Pen on Fire. The interview originally appeared in the ASJA Monthly, the journal of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the nation's leading organization of independent nonfiction writers.


BDB: When did you turn to fiction, and why?

CB: I dabbled in it until I was in my thirties, when I began to dedicate my life to it. I noticed that my poems were all narratives, and I found that I was particularly interested in characters, and in sequences: what people do when they’re under pressure, how they get themselves into interesting trouble. That’s the interest of a fiction writer.

BDB: I read a funny story in a Ploughshares profile about you that you had
an agent who asked you why she hated your first novel. Care to elaborate?

CB: It was unpleasant. I’d sent this agent (not my current agent, of course) a novel manuscript, and she said over the phone that she hated it; then she asked me why she hated it. I told her that I didn’t know. She insisted that I answer her. She was very cruel, of course; she had a mean streak.

BDB: And then you gave up writing fiction, deciding you would teach and write criticism?

CB: Yes. Well, I didn’t give up writing it. I resolved to give it up, but I couldn’t, quite.

BDB: But then you didn't quit--you merged three novels into one....

CB: No. What I did was to write a story, “Harmony of the World,” about a failed artist, which is what I thought I was. In the story, he’s a musician, not a writer. With the irony of which life is so fond, the story was published and anthologized and lifted my spirits a bit, so that I thought maybe I could live in the world as a writer after all. You never know who or what will give you permission to be the person you want to be. Brenda Ueland had, but few others had, in my case.

For the rest, click here.

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