“I would write and people would feed me out of pity”

Jim Shepard recently told the The Morning News he “didn’t really have a career plan.” In conversation with Robert Birnbaum, Shepard said his writing took off when he first found the chutzpah to write the way he wanted to write. “I stopped doing what I imagined my undergraduate teachers wanted and just thought, ‘If I am going to go down in flames then I am going to do what I want to do.’”

Winner of the 2011 O. Henry Prize and currently the J. Leland Miller Professor of American History, Literature, and Eloquence at Williams College, Shepard said he landed his first teaching position in part because he didn’t think he’d ever actually get the job. “Nobody is going to hire me to teach at the college level,” Shepard remembered thinking. “So I’m sure I gave the most relaxed interview anyone has ever given.”

As far his writing career goes, Shepard went on to note that he’s fortunate to have operated under “semi-obscurity,” saying his limited recognition helped him dodge negative book reviews. “There is so little review space that if the people don’t love it they go, ‘Why bother?’ They don’t need to review me. They need to review Richard Ford. They need to review Alice Munro.”

It’s an insightful, honest, and intimate interview, and it’ll likely be a welcome distraction from this sweltering weather. Find the rest of it here: The Morning News

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Electric Literature presents Jim Shepard’s “Your Fate Hurdles Down at You,” winner of the 2011 O. Henry Prize and originally published in Electric Literature no. 1.

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