Charles Baxter

So. Charles Baxter came and went. He left this morning. I mean, he was amazing to hear. At his reading, he inhabited the narrator like no one I’ve seen before. The guy performed. The story was funny and sweet and strained and quiet, like all of his work. At the Q&A, he said he wrote four “failed” novels before finally making one work. Isn’t that nice to hear? I’m on number three, which looks to be only slightly less problematic than numbers one and two.

There are other highlights: a four-point list of what fiction might require, including something called Captain Happen; a discussion about fast food; drinks at The Alibi; a number of anecdotes about writers, writing, and teaching writing, which seems a staple of the MFA experience; something like a lecture on William Maxwell that kind of killed me in a good way. Prospective Wyoming applicants usually ask about the Visiting Writers program. It’s great. Charles Baxter, for me, embodied all of the great things that can come of such a program.

Baxter: “People say that you’ll never get your book published, or, if you do, it won’t get reviewed, or, if it does, it won’t sell. What they should be telling you is that you can make happen what you want to happen.”

I’m remembering from conversation here, so forgive slight misquotes.

Also: “We never quite get over the feeling that we’re frauds. It never goes away. Eventually, you just start to think, so what? So fucking what?”

So fucking what, indeed.

Thanks for coming, Charlie.


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