Meet Ned Stuckey-French, essayist and professor at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. He is the author of The American Essay in the American Century, co-editor (with Carl Klaus) of Essayists on the Essay: Four Centuries of Commentary, and coauthor (with Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French) of Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. I’ve recently had the privilege of meeting with Stuckey-French, to discuss writing and college among other things. Find out more by visiting his website.
Are you a fan of sharing what you’ve written during the “early stages,” and asking for advice? If so, who has the privilege of reading your first drafts?
Absolutely. I’ve been in many writing groups over the years, sometimes just with fellow essayists, sometimes with people working in different genres. I like them because they force some deadlines and accountability on me, give me a place to hear my work through the ears of other readers, provide some camaraderie and breaks from the isolation of writing, and help me figure out what my piece is really about. I’m not in a writing group now but share drafts (later drafts, I suppose) with Elizabeth or editors.
What are the two most important traits writers can possess, and why?
Honesty (which, I suppose, sometimes goes under the name of bravery, objectivity, or ruthlessness as far as one’s relationship with one’s writing) and perseverance because so much of writing is revising.
What is the one piece of advice you wish you had been given when you began writing?
Don’t be in a hurry. Be ready and willing to revise. And, of course, read, read, and read some more.
How do you believe writers should connect with their local writing community? Why/why not is this beneficial?
Absolutely. We need to support each other, be professional, and develop the institutions that support writing (e.g., magazines, reading series, book festivals, book blogs, independent bookstores, writing groups and programs, small and independent publishers, etc.). Anything else is selfish and self-defeating, I think.
What do you believe is the greatest myth about succeeding in the writing/publishing world?
That most or even many writers make a living as writers. Most have day jobs, often as teachers.
What do you believe is the most important thing you’re able to teach your students?
Again, that writing takes time and revision. I think it takes five, six, seven, maybe eleven drafts before you really know what your piece is about.