Jennifer Egan’s Apprenticeship

I continue my summer of Jennifer Egan (going backwards, it appears, in the chronology of her publications, reading “The Invisible Circus” now).  So in my interest of all things Egan, I came upon a very nifty site called The Days of Yore, which interviews writers about what they did before they published.  The interviews are friendly and candid and interesting.  In Egan’s interview, she gives some wonderful insights into her struggles and process.  For instance, in New York, she started taking a writing class from Phil Schultz, who runs the Writers’ Studio.  The class was at his house, and Egan describes her experience this way:

My work was really poorly received at first because I had all of these really weirdly bad habits. I was writing badly. It just wasn’t alive. It was dead on arrival. The way Phil ran his class was this: There were fourteen or fifteen people and anyone who wanted to read could read. But, he would stop them when he felt that the room had heard enough. The first story I read, I got maybe two pages in. But I would keep bringing in work.

When Phil finally let her read a story all the way through she cried.

I cried. I cried before I could even go on, because I couldn’t even believe that he was letting me go on. It was very moving. Really, it was just incredible.

And then the story was published.  And that’s when things, still slowly, began to change for her.  Check out the full interview here.


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