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SPRING 2007

Vol. 07, No. 2


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Excerpts

David Eggers is a writer, teacher, publisher and founder of San Francisco's only pirate supply shop. The pirate supply store is actually a front for a tutoring center, established to meet the zoning requirements of the neighborhood, but it says a bit about the creativity and diverse interests of this man. He is widely known for his first book, an autobiographical story of his parents' dying of cancer and raising his brother, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Eggers publishes a literary magazine, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, among many other endeavors, ranging from humorous to serious, which can be viewed at mcsweeneys.net. He was the key-note speaker at an arts and humanities summit hosted at North Dakota State University.

It would seem irrational almost to come and go and disappear without any trace of yourself, so memoir is proof that you were here.

Memoir is the process of self discovery or figuring out patterns of your life and the heroes and villains and why you do certain things. It's just like therapy in a way I guess but it's cheaper and then at the end if all goes well then you might end up with something that could teach a reader a thing or two if you could make the personal universal.

When I think of my parents who both died very young and my sister who died young and I think, well I don't have anything but pictures and stories to go by in terms of what their lives were, and I would kill for a book written by any one of them and I could go back again and again and know them that well. So I think that it's a cheat in a way to not leave something like that behind.

I wish I had 500 pages from every one of my family members no longer here.

I think the other thing with a memoir is the cathartic element of it. It feels good to write it. But after 300 something pages, you think does anyone care, could anyone possibly care to hear me for this long. I think it's almost inevitable that you get tired of your own voice after a while.

When that first book came out it was read by a much wider audience than it was intended for, and that was a shock. I wouldn't have written so candidly had I known the audience would be larger.

I had great teachers. I had fantastic teachers, all the way through school. At least I was encouraged by them. I never had an English teacher who said no you've got to fit in this category and you've got to write this way.

I think it's always the great killer of any potential writer if an adult says no it's got to be this way, this is how it's done, five paragraphs, topic sentence, introduction, conclusion, whatever. I think that the teachers that we learn a lot from really untether their students and let them go at it from whatever angle they feel they should. The last thing you want to do is impose any kind of paralysis before they get started.

I think that once students know you're serious and once you're setting an example where you're being honest and you're saying you will not be judged, you will not be chastised, there's no wrong, that's where you get the most incredible writing. We've gotten it out of every conceivable student. But then we are sticklers about grammar and everything like that completely. It's not just rainbows and unicorns, we're really nuts and bolts about it. Students are always more than happy to do all the mechanical stuff if they're expressing themselves in a way that they feel is honest.

The writers I like are mostly people that are the most sort of lyrical and they are able to harness an incredible amount of life and throw it on every page.

I think all writers should be somewhat educated about the printing and publishing process. And I think it's a long held myth that writers and artists sit there by themselves in an ivory tower and don't have to ever get their hands dirty with like knowing anything about the means of distribution. It's totally insane to try to inoculate yourselves from all those things.

Half of the people who work at McSweeney's are old friends from high school and so part of that was an effort to be around your good friends as much as possible and try to figure out a way to work together. It's an obsession of mine to be around old friends and try to figure out ways that we can spend more time together.

I would much rather spend time with the baby than do anything else and as she gets older it's going to be very dangerous because I don't have anywhere near as much interest in anything as I do the goings on in a kid's brain and what they want to do.

Everybody should wear as much flannel as possible, I think, especially on weekends.

I would just rather talk about anything but me.


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