Contributing Writer Jennifer Acker caught up with novelist and teacher Erin McGraw, who was one of Donald Ray Pollock‘s teachers in the MFA program at Ohio State University, where he enrolled at the age of 50. McGraw talks about what it was like among students and faculty when Pollock published his first collection while still a student; about the violence in his work; about working with older students; and about the unpredictability of the writer’s journey.
Goals are dangerous; because we can set really inappropriate, and frankly really stupid goals, that don’t help us and that send us into a tailspin of really pointless work because we are so hot on attaining some goal that we ourselves decided absent anything else was important. The work tends to follow its own trajectory and our development as artists tends to follow its own trajectory as well; there isn’t really that much of a pattern [...] Art in general takes a while [...] rarely does a successful book match what the writer had intended to write in the first place [...] Things suddenly take turns that we hadn’t anticipated and go in places we hadn’t meant, and that’s not bad; it can be unnerving, but it’s not a bad thing.
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