The Books We Teach #8: Interview with Rick Moody


Photo: Seamus Kearney

Rick Moody is author of the novels The Four Fingers of DeathThe Ice Storm, Purple AmericaThe Diviner, and Garden State, which won the Pushcart Press Editors’ Book Award. He is also the author of two collections of stories, The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven and Demonology, as well as a memoir, The Black Veil, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Award, and a volume of essays, On Celestial Music. He has received the Addison Metcalf Award, the Paris Review’s Aga Khan Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His short fiction and journalism have been anthologized in Best American Stories 2001, Best American Essays 2004, Year’s Best Science Fiction #9, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. He has taught at the State University of New York at Purchase, the Bennington College Writing Seminars, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the New York Writers Institute, and the New School for Social Research. He now teaches creative writing at New York University, Skidmore College, the School of Art at Yale University, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Here, Rick and I discuss the mentorship class model, his reputation for assigning works that students dislike, his push to rethink pedagogical preconceptions, and students singing (yes, singing) during creative writing classes.

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The Books We Teach #4: Interview with Christine Schutt

The Books We Teach series will feature primary, secondary, and post-secondary educators and their thoughts about literature in the face of an evolving classroom. Posts will highlight literary innovations in teaching, contemporary literature’s place in pedagogy, and the books that writers teach. In the spirit of educational dynamism, we encourage readers to contribute their thoughts in the comments section.

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Christine Schutt is the author of two story collections and three novels. Schutt’s first novel, Florida,was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award and her second novel, All Souls, was a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in fiction. Her most recent novel, Prosperous Friends (Grove/Atlantic, 2012), was described by The New York Times Book Review as “shot through with [Virginia] Woolf’s lyrical, restless spirit.” She is a Pushcart Prize winner, O. Henry Award recipient, Guggenheim fellow, and senior editor at NOON. All the while, Schutt teaches high school English at The Nightingale-Bamford School in New York City, and has taught writing at Barnard College, Bennington College, Columbia University, Hollins University, Sarah Lawrence College, Syracuse University, UC Irvine, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference.

Here, Christine chats with me about her go-to high school creative writing exercises, the challenges and excitements she faces as a secondary educator, and her varied experiences teaching high schoolers, undergraduates, and graduate students.Continue Reading

Roundup: Writers and Their Mentors

In our Roundups segment, we’re looking back at all the great posts since the blog started in 2009. We explore posts from our archives as well as other top literary magazines and websites, centered on a certain theme to help you jump-start your week. This week we bring you posts about writers and their mentors.

From Ploughshares:

The Fictional Suburbs

tract housingI hadn’t really thought that much about it until a friend—a non-writer friend, for what that might be worth, a musician—pointed it out. I was wrapping up my first year as a PhD student and had invited some folks over for drinks. This friend glanced down at some of the books laying around my sparsely furnished graduate-student living room, picked up a few and read the back covers. “Dude,” he said, “how come all your books are about sad-ass families?”Continue Reading

Literary Boroughs #5: Brooklyn, NY

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. The series will run on our blog from May 2012 until AWP13 in Boston. Please enjoy the fifth post on Brooklyn, New York by Melissa Sandor. -Andrea Martucci, Ploughshares Managing Editor

Valentino Pier

Come like a light in the white mackerel sky,
come like a daytime comet
with a long unnebulous train of words,
from Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying.
— Elizabeth Bishop, “Invitation to Miss Marianna Moore”


Born and bred Brooklyn – U.S.A.
They call me Adam Yauch – but I’m M.C.A.
— Beastie Boys, “No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn”

With 2.5+ million residents, Brooklyn is New York City’s most populous borough. Larger than Philadelphia and almost as big as Chicago with 71 square miles in total and 30 miles of waterfront, Brooklyn is a city unto itself and one with a rich literary legacy. Frederick Law Olmstead, who designed both Central Park and Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, considered the latter to be his “masterpiece.” Today, the borough boasts more than 700 arts and cultural organizations and a multitude of events from the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Roulette to the home grown famed Brooklyn Flea, Coney Island’s annual Mermaid Parade, and open studio tours along Red Hook’s historic piers.

City:  Brooklyn

What the City is known for/what makes it unique:  The “If you believe that, then I have a Bridge to sell you” started in Brooklyn with the 8th wonder of the world famously sold many times over – The Brooklyn Bridge; Junior’s Cheesecake, The Cyclone, “Da Bums” Brooklyn’s heartbreakers, the Dodgers, Nathan’s Famous, Saturday Night Fever, DiFara Pizza and we can’t forget the world famous accent… fuggedaboutit!

A Sampling of resident literati (…easier to compile a list of writers who don’t live in Brooklyn.)

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How Tweet It Is: Electric Literature Goes Electronic


In June 2009, Electric Literature joined the literary magazine scene. So far, they have released three issues filled with the great writers you expect: Michael Cunningham, Colson Whitehead, Lydia Davis. Not to mention Jim Shepard, who guest edits the upcoming Fall 2010 Ploughshares, and Aimee Bender, whose fiction will appear in Shepard’s issue.
Their novelty? Take a look at Rick Moody, a Ploughshares veteran, who in November brought the serial to a new generation: a whole story in tweets. “Some Contemporary Characters” appeared on Twitter in 153 installments. As with any project in its infancy, some found the format cluttered with unrelated comments or retweets from co-publishers, though it certainly caused a firestorm online. Beyond Twitfic, Electric Literature comes to readers in almost every conceivable format from printed magazine to audiobook, e-book, and iPhone application.
Jim Shepard earned substantial buzz not just for his story “Your Fate Hurtles Down at You,” but for an animated trailer influenced by Asian painting, with some American detective noir for good measure:
Moody’s first six tweets and first paragraphs from all authors can be found at Electric Literature. Subscriptions are available in six formats, and soon they plan to add Android to the mix. While you’re waiting until August for Jim Shepard’s issue of Ploughshares, take a gander at Electric. Read their (very extensive) blog. Savor those days when lit mags make headlines.