The Famous (and Not-So-Famous) Writers I Met While Working at Hugo House

And the Writing Advice They Gave Me


Boy, I knew this one would follow me.

I was the young writer, rejected, and I have carried a special kind of shame around with me ever since. I shudder when I think back on what a presumptuous ass I was, what kind of horrendously large chip on my shoulder made me feel so righteous, and how much whiskey was deadening any instinct that might have stopped me from lashing out at a stranger. Brian, rightfully, sent a reply the next day, a very firm what-for explaining that my charge of elitism was bunk, that Hugo House was not, in fact, creating an army of Franzens (an author I've subsequently come to sort-of enjoy, actually...) and my letter was pure, unearned, insincere bullshit. Naturally, I wrote him to apologize. I still had to live with myself, after all, and maybe even apply for other fellowships someday. I gave him the straightest, soberest apology my shaking hands would type. And to my astonishment, he wrote back AGAIN. Why was this guy even reading my mail, I wondered? He told me he accepted my apology, and went on to give, essentially, a totally earnest pep talk on rejection, perseverance, and humility in the arts. He encouraged me to fail better, after I'd failed so, so terribly. I'm still ashamed of my letter to Brian McGuigan, but I'm still thankful for his letter to me.
Author Behind the Greatest Literary Hoax : J.T. Leroy?
Best Selling Literary Novelist : Chuck Palahniuk?
Matthew, this is such a sweet comment. Keep doing your thing.