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Literature | In Capital Letters, 2011 May

Questions?

  • Literature
    202-885-2971
    Fax: 202-885-2938
    lit@american.edu
    Battelle Tompkins, Room 237

    Rangel-Mullin, Rebecca
    Sr. Administrative Assistant

Mailing Address

Michael R. Purcell, Interview & Writing Sample

In Capital Letters (ICL): What do you want remember about the program in 10 years?

Michael R. Purcell

The thing I will remember most about the program in 10 years is that it taught me to deal with any writing assignment whether it is a short story, a memoir, a poem, long or short fiction. The faculty was supportive of me, not because of what I wrote necessarily, but because they were trying to make me the best writer I could be at the time and that with time and hard work, I would get better. And of course, all my wonderful classmates.

ICL: From being part of the program and participating in workshops and the Visiting Writers series, what do you think are the most important things you have learned about your own writing? How has your writing changed?

I am definitely more confident as a writer. You have to be willing to examine yourself, your prejudices and your faults and your attributes; strengths and weaknesses. I guess like anything else, you have good days and bad days and the thing the Visiting Writers Series teaches is that everyone has them. I have also learned from being an architect that every creative endeavor requires trial and error, revisions (oh, God the revisions) and feedback, some of it many times not what you want to hear.
More than anything, I've learned that I can do it.

ICL: What is your favorite quote or line from a book?
"The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself," The Great Gatsby.

ICL: What have you read most recently that inspired you?

Jonathan Franzen's Freedom because it shows how a great writer can look at things we take for granted in life and make it interesting and entertaining. It is like looking in a mirror in a time machine.

ICL: Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

That I self-published a novel in 2002.

ICL: If your life had a theme song right now, what would it be?

"Band on the Run" by Paul McCartney

 

Writing Sample

From "Incunabulum"

His car was sitting in the parking lot, unmolested, the heat emanating from it like a blast furnace. The steering wheel was hot to the touch, so he left the driver's door open and walked around the car, examining it carefully, opening the other doors as he went. It all checked out—a good thing since it belonged to Hertz. His cell phone rang, startling him out of his daydream about the woman he'd just met. It was Lila, his daughter.

"Dad! Where have you been?" she said without a hello. "I've been calling your house for three days."

"In jail. Why didn't you call my cell?"

"Jail!" She thought a few seconds about why he would be in jail and said, "Oh, dad, you didn't—did you?"

"I did. Almost thirty years without a drink, but I can't say that now," he said flatly.

"You sound like you're rejoicing in that," Lila said, a tone of recrimination in her voice. "You were always so proud of the fact that you stayed sober."

"The world changed sweetie, and so did the people in it. I just wanted to see what would happen."

"Sounds like jail happened."

"Well," he said indignantly, "that wasn't part of the plan."

"Suit yourself. Just don't make the same mistakes as before."

"I divorced those mistakes years ago, sweetie. I'll do just fine, thank you. It's an incunabulum, I guess."

"An in— what?"

"An incunabulum, the beginning of something," he snickered.


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