“Creating people out of nothing and putting them on paper seemed like an amusing and interesting thing to do.”
“Some mysterious combination of stars seem to align for some titles. Who knows why? One can’t simply say, well, it’s the book. There are lots of great books published every year that don’t find their readerships. Why do some work and others not work on a commercial level? Who knows?”
When you talk of Southern literature, what do you mean? There are 10,000 Souths. Cracker South. Cajun South. Cowboy South. Souths in wiregrass, bluegrass, prairie grass, sawgrass. We’re as diverse as Europe here. Writers do their best, I think, to write about their own little postage stamps of experience.
“The best lines that you write, at least sometimes, are the truest lines, and they’ll sometimes startle you when they come out. And to get at that place, where things are really true, is often uncomfortable. At least for me. Maybe if I’d lived a nicer life it wouldn’t be.”
I often have students in creative writing come to me, just as they’re graduating with their BA’s, asking for a letter of reference for MFA programs. I try to talk them out of it, tell them to wait. You don’t study writing, you practice it, and getting out of a classroom and putting experience behind you is somehow part of the practice.
The advantage in going to the [MFA] program so late was that by then I had developed a pattern of discipline when it came to learning. I knew what could be gained by committing oneself in a very serious way.
“The Old Guard writers—you know who they are—pronounce from the head of the workshop table that a writer must write every day. If you don’t, you aren’t real. Well, fuck that, is what I say today, as I approach 49 years old.”