Don't Quit Your Day Job:
Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs they Quit
EDITED BY SONNY BREWER
e-book ISBN 978-1-84982-129-2
hardback ISBN 978-1-84982-108-7
Contributory essays by:
Howard Bahr, Rick Bragg, Sonny Brewer, Larry Brown, Pat Conroy, Connie May Fowler, Tom Franklin, Tim Gautreaux, William Gay, John Grisham, Winston Groom, Silas House, Suzanne Hudson, Joshilyn Jackson, Barb Johnson, Cassandra King, Janis Owens, Michelle Richmond, Clay Risen, George Singleton, Matthew Teague, Daniel Wallace, Brad Watson & Steve Yarbrough
Dear Booklover, (and e-Booklover),
P.J. O’Rourke said, “Creative writing teachers should be purged until every last instructor who has uttered the words ‘Write what you know’ is confined to a labor camp…The blind guy with the funny little harp who composed The Iliad, how much combat do you think he saw?”
Like O’Rourke, William Faulkner had his own take on the Other Commandment for writers, the one that goes, “Thou shalt not quit thy day job.” Faulkner, who won the 1949 Nobel Prize for Literature, had, twenty-five years before, worked at the post office in his hometown of Oxford, Mississippi.
Mister Faulkner was known to say, “One of the saddest things is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours, is work. You can’t eat eight hours a day, nor drink for eight hours a day, nor make love for eight hours.”
He must have been determined to give something else (writing, we may assume, perhaps a glass of whisky on the side) a whirl when he tendered his resignation to the postmaster. “I reckon I’ll be at the beck and call of folks with money all my life,” he said, “but thank God I won’t ever again have to be at the beck and call of every son of a bitch who’s got two cents to buy a stamp.”
The authors in this book have tried their hands at some of the same jobs you have held, or still keep. They’ve worked on the railroad, busted rocks with a sledgehammer, fought fires, wiped tables, soldiered and carpentered and spied, delivered pizzas, lacquered boat paddles, counted heads for the church, sold underwear, and, yes, delivered the mail. They’ve driven garbage trucks.
And like William Faulkner they have quit those day jobs.
And like Faulkner they write. They tell good tales. If you wonder what work preceded their efforts to produce a great pile of books, if you would like to know how they made the transition to, as William Gay said, “clocking in at the culture factory,” then this is the book you’ve been waiting for.
HOWARD BAHR, a native of Meridian, Mississippi, is the author of The Black Flower and three other novels. He teaches at Belhaven University in Jackson, Miss. www.belhaven.edu
RICK BRAGG is the author of the bestselling All Over but the Shoutin’, Ava’s Man and The Prince of Frogtown, among other books. He lives in Alabama with his family.
SONNY BREWER is the author of four novels, including The Poet of Tolstoy Park and The Widow and the Tree. He edited the anthology series Stories from the Blue Moon Café, and is working on a memoir about the day jobs in his life. www.sonnybrewer.com
LARRY BROWN was a lifelong resident of Oxford, Mississippi. He authored two short story collections, Facing the Music and Big Bad Love; and six novels: Dirty Work, Joe, Father and Son, Fay, The Rabbit Factory, and A Miracle of Catfish; as well as an autobiography, On Fire, and a collection of essays, Billy Ray’s Farm: Essays from a Place Called Tula. His work won many prizes and awards, including two Southern Book Critics Circle Awards for fiction; the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Literature; and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award. He died in 2004. In 2005 he was posthumously inducted into the Fellowship of Southern Writers.
PAT CONROY is the author of nine books, four of which were made into award-winning motion pictures, including The Prince of Tides. He lives in the area his works praise, the low country of South Carolina. www.patconroy.com
CONNIE MAY FOWLER is the author of one memoir and six novels, including How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly and Before Women had Wings, which was the recipient of the 1996 Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. She lives on a sandbar in the Gulf of Mexico with her husband and four dogs. www.conniemayfowler.com
TOM FRANKLIN is the author of Poachers: Stories, Hell at the Breech, Smonk, and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, all published by William Morrow. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, and teaches at Ole Miss.
TIM GAUTREAUX’s latest novel is The Missing (Knopf). He has published two other novels and two collections of short stories. His fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic, and Harper’s. He lives in Louisiana and North Carolina.
WILLIAM GAY is the author of three novels, including Provinces of Night, as well as I Hate to See That Evening Sun Go Down, a collection of short stories. He lives in Hohenwald, Tennessee, where he is at work on a new novel.
JOHN GRISHAM is the author of a bunch of legal thrillers, two books about football, a collection of long stories, and a kids’ book.
WINSTON GROOM writes novels and histories. One of the novels was Forrest Gump. He lives with his wife, Anne-Clinton, and daughter, Carolina, in Point Clear, Alabama.
SILAS HOUSE is the bestselling author of four novels, two plays, and a work of nonfiction. He is the winner of the Appalachian Book of the Year, the Storylines Prize, two Kentucky Novel of the Year awards, the Appalachian Writer of the Year Award, and many others. He is Chair of Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky.
SUZANNE HUDSON is the author of a collection of short stories; two novels; and, under the pen name Ruby Pearl Saffire, a book of humor and social commentary, Second Sluthood: A Manifesto for the Post-Menopausal, Pre-Senilic Matriarch. She lives near Fairhope, Alabama, with author Joe Formichella.
JOSHILYN JACKSON is the New York Times bestselling author of Gods in Alabama, Between, Georgia, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, and Backseat Saints. She lives in Georgia with her husband and their children. www.joshilynjackson.com
BARB JOHNSON’s work has appeared in such magazines as Glimmer Train, Washington Square, the Greensboro Review, Guernica and Oxford American. Her debut collection of short stories is More of This World or Maybe Another (Harper Perennial, 2009). Johnson is the recipient of a grant from A Room of Her Own Foundation, which will support the writing of her first novel. She lives and writes in New Orleans.
CASSANDRA KING is the author of four novels, Making Waves, The Sunday Wife, The Same Sweet Girls, and Queen of Broken Hearts, as well as numerous short stories and articles. A native of L. A. (Lower Alabama), she now lives in South Carolina.
BARRY MOSER won the American Book Award for design in 1983. He has designed and/or illustrated nearly 400 books in his forty-year career. He teaches at Smith College.
JANIS OWENS is a native of West Florida, born in Marianna in 1960, and was a student of Harry Crews’ Creative Writing Workshop at the University of West Florida. She is an essayist, folklorist, and novelist; the author of four books: My Brother Michael, Myra Sims, The Schooling of Claybird Catts, and most recently, a memoir/cookbook, The Cracker Kitchen. www.janisowens.com
MICHELLE RICHMOND is the author of The Year of Fog, No One You Know, Dream of the Blue Room, and The Girl in the Fall-Away Dress. She grew up in Mobile, Alabama, and now lives in northern California.
CLAY RISEN is a staff editor at the New York Times op-ed page and the author of A Nation on Fire: America in the Wake of the King Assassination. He is also a regular contributor to Chapter16.org, the literary website of the Tennessee Humanities Council. Clay grew up in Nashville and lives in New York City.
GEORGE SINGLETON has published four collections of stories, two novels, and a book of advice. He lives in South Carolina. www.georgesingleton.com
MATTHEW TEAGUE is a native of the Mississippi Delta and now lives with his wife, Nicole, and two children in Fairhope, Alabama. He has written from places as diverse as Algeria, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and more for National Geographic. His work has been included in several anthologies, and he was named by the Columbia Journalism Review as one of America’s Top Ten Young Writers.
DANIEL WALLACE is the author of four novels. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with his wife Laura, and teaches at the University of North Carolina.
BRAD WATSON is the author of Last Days of the Dog-Men, The Heaven of Mercury, and Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. Originally from Mississippi, and having lived most of his adult life in Alabama, he currently maintains in Wyoming.
STEVE YARBROUGH is the author of three story collections and five novels, the most recent of which is Safe from the Neighbors. He lives in Massachusetts and teaches at Emerson College.