Thursday, September 07, 2006

Sport and Crime Writer Credits His Journalism Career to a College Writing Class

Yet more proof that successful writers often emerge from the academy, today's news feed yields a tasty nugget: "Low Road to the High Glossies" showcases Jonathan Miles, who never intended to be a professional writer. He was just a smarter version of the campus party guy until he stumbled into a writing class at Ole Miss with award-winning author Barry Hannah (Yonder Stands Your Orphan, and many others), a legendary teacher who also lists Donna Tartt (The Secret History) as one of his proteg├ęs. Miles then moved to an apprenticeship with another former Hannah student, Larry Brown (Big Bad Love).

Here is what he told journalist Steven Ward about the accidental journey: "I wrote a short story, [and then] "Barry" (whose lit legend I was still ignorant of at the time) heaped some undue praise upon it, and I got it published in a little Oxford alt-weekly. Which led to the giant linchpin moment of my life: The author Larry Brown, who'd just quit the Oxford Fire Department to write full-time, read the story and took me under his wing. He taught me everything I know, to understate. It was an apprenticeship that lasted 12 years, until Larry's death in 2004. And it was much more than an apprenticeship: Larry was my father in almost every regard save biological. His wife and three children provoked a degree of local confusion by adding my name to his tombstone, but that's how it was. I have no idea what my life would look like now had Larry not entered it. I'd probably be singing 'Mustang Sally' for 50 bucks and free beer in some hotel bar off the interstate."

This is the second item in an occasional series about successful writers who were inspired in the university classroom.

1 comment:

nlbelardes said...

I think being successful in the world of writing takes an incredible amount of luck and networking within literary social circles (Having a great mentor helps). Sometimes people fall into such circles where others have to break down doors to get in.

Having been someone whose claim to fame was creating storyboard artwork for the cheesiest light show on Earth, well, it's been in interesting journey...

Have dreams, have self-vision, and don't give up or you will be one of the have-nots.