Charles Baxter Q&A

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012 at 9:19 AM
Charles Baxter Q&A by Samantha Myers

Fiction writer Charles Baxter will be reading at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College Thursday, April 5, as a speaker of the Creative Writers Reading Series. Baxter has written two collections of essays on fiction, five novels, five collections of short stories, including his newest release Gryphon. Baxter’s work has appeared in literary magazines like The American Scholar, The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and Tin House. He teaches at the University of Minnesota and in the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College.

Samantha Myers: How long have you been writing? What got you started in writing?

Charles Baxter: I've been writing almost as long as I can remember. It always seemed like a natural activity to me, just like walking. Nothing in particular got me started, apart from my love for stories and my love of reading literature and the way literature tells you how one thing leads to another.

SM: What is the driving force, or inspiration, for your writing?

CB: A love of stories and an interest in what people do when they're alone and in groups.

SM: A common theme in your writing seems to be about loss in some way. How are you able to keep coming up with new stories that have similar themes?

CB: I think there are many, many themes and subjects in my stories and novels, and loss is only one of them. I hope I’m not as repetitive as your question seems to suggest.

SM: You have published two collections of essays on fiction. Have you ever considered writing other forms of nonfiction?

CB: Yes. I have indeed written other forms of nonfiction, including an essay on fatherhood, an essay on P. T. Barnum and the culture of hype, and another essay about being in a rollover accident.

SM: You have published five novels, but you also have published five collections of short stories. Do you prefer one form over the other? Why?

CB: Novels get you a bigger audience, but stories are efficient and get to the point faster. I love both forms.

SM: Do you have any advice for new writers?

CB: Tell the truth. Don't quit. Be stubborn. For your stories, think up characters whom you love and then get them into interesting trouble. Trouble is at the heart of fiction. Trouble comes from temptations, and everyone, everywhere, can be tempted by something.


The reading will be held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, in Room 180 of the Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center, 5101 Jordan Road at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. Parking will be available in the deck south of Burke, off of Technology Drive. The event is free and open to the public.

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