Category Archives: Bret Anthony Johnston

Skating By

Buried in the brief online bio of Bret Anthony Johnson, head of Harvard’s creative writing department, is an interesting factoid: He’s be a “skateboarder for almost twenty years.” More info is hard to come by, but the writer of the collection Corpus Christi and Naming the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer (mentioned here last February) fills out the story with McSweeney’s, locating a few connections between skate culture and fiction writing. Authors and skaters are both prone to faceplants, and the main trick is getting up again:

Q: How has skateboarding influenced your writing?

BAJ: The two have always complemented each other. There are so few things that seem as difficult to me. The biggest link between skateboarding and writing is the discipline. Like here. (Gestures to the park below.) This kid is trying this trick and he hasn’t made it and he’s going to keep trying. It’s like when we go to work on a sentence. You have to log the hours, take the hits, suffer the pain and discouragement, then come back at it.

You’re going to have to jumble this around and make it sound smart.

Q: Don’t worry. I’m a professional.

A Stranger Comes to Town, With a Ladder

Bret Anthony Johnston, head of the creative writing department at Harvard University, has a new book titled Naming the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer. Johnston solicited advice from Joyce Carol Oates, Tom Robbins, Ann Packer, and others (complete list) to assemble a collection of tips and tricks. As Johnston told Radio Iowa:

“They’ve asked the reader to do things such as, find an old postcard and make a story up from it,” Johnson explains, “they’ve asked to them to re-imagine a Greek myth in contemporary times. They’ve asked them to trot out their most shameful experience and render it on the page. There’s other things as well, imagine a scene involving a man carrying a ladder.” He says he was thrilled so many of America’s finest living writers signed on to take part in the collaboration.