103 NCMusicAd Coltrane Stewart webJohn Coltrane, April 1966 © Chuck Stewart Photography, LLC

 

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Chuck Stewart’s photography provided by Fireball Entertainment Group, courtesy of Chuck Stewart Photographs of John Coltrane, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution

 

March 13, 2018

Seven writers on their literary mentors. 

Essays by Tayari Jones, Kevin Brockmeier, Crystal Wilkinson, Tift Merritt, Pia Z. Ehrhardt, Bronwen Dickey, and Jamey Hatley.

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

I keep a photograph on my desk that I printed from the internet. It is a candid snapshot, taken at the end of a gathering of black women. It must be fall because most of them are wearing coats. It looks as if someone insisted at the last minute that they take a photo to capture the evening. In the background, a portrait of Bessie Smith, the blues singer, hangs on the wall. 

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

So, I kind of fell backward into writing, not because it came “naturally” or because I wanted to join the family business (in his novel Money, Martin Amis, the son of Kingsley Amis, famously joked, “Oh, sure. It’s just like taking over the family pub”), but because curiosity drove everything I did, and eventually that curiosity won out.

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

To ease the terror of having your work picked over by him and your fellow writers, Rick ran workshop like the Grand Guignol. Jokes leavened the sting; his over-the-top performance and rhetoric made the criticism entertaining, bracing. He gave us a set of dictums he adhered to in his own work. Twenty years later, they’re available online as “The 39 Steps,” but back then, these don’ts and dos rolled off his tongue. 

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

Heroes are no trite matter—people worth looking up to are important at any age. Adult influences wield less power; we come to them more fully formed, with harder edges and less need. Those first heroes are mentors, confidants, complete relationships in their one-sided way. Not unlike first loves, they hold that most delicate of heartstrings: hope. Hope for the future, for what love is capable of, what words are capable of, what we ourselves are capable of. My first hero is, always, Eudora Welty.

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

I found myself in Jones’s writing. Kentucky. Black. Rural. Woman. I was especially taken with how she drew characters from the oral storytelling tradition and then broadened that form into her own literary style. I saw Jones’s act of making black speech the core of her work as revolutionary.

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing Essay from the 100th issue.

I spent considerably more time in the company of Donald Harington’s novels than I did in the company of Donald Harington. I’ve been doing the math. Between our introduction in 2003 and his death in 2009, we can’t have passed more than half a dozen hours together—

March 13, 2018

A Writing on Writing essay from the 100th issue.

Pearl taught me to be a loving teller of the truth. This is the basis for my work as a writer and as a human being. If you are a person who loves the world, then you love your community, you love your family, and you love yourself. If you love them as they are, then you can write them as they are. Your humanity and theirs will rise to the top. 

January 22, 2018

Denis Johnson and revision. 

A couple of years later, I told someone about this, that the hitchhiker in “Emergency” is a real guy with the same name, that I’d watched this remarkable video of Johnson reading the story, and she second-guessed the whole thing. What if, she wondered, the interruption, the anecdote, the letter that Johnson reads is just another version of the story? It all fits together that way, that years later the narrator would be a novelist, that the character he’d almost forgotten was real would walk up and say hello. It feels a little like a final revision.

November 01, 2016

When the interstates reopened I took a trip to Baton Rouge to see my people, have a look around. I wanted to see the street I grew up on first.

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