“Sometimes I think my life is full of these strange… happenings, these weird events that just drop on me,” writes Charles Baxter in his 2008 novel The Soul Thief. Throughout his 40+ year career as a writer — one that has yielded five novels, six collections of stories, two nonfiction books on the craft of fiction, and three poetry collections — Charles Baxter has delighted in pulling the rug from beneath his characters’ feet. Mr. Baxter’s stories and essays have received numerous awards, including a National Book Award nomination for The Feast of Love in 2000. Mr. Baxter is also passionate about teaching. For many years, he directed the MFA program at the University of Michigan. He now teaches at the University of Minnesota and the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers and has written much about writing pedagogy. He spoke with Wag’s Revue contributor Sean Lawlor on the phone.
Sean Lawlor, Wag’s Revue: You’re obviously very prolific; what is your writing process is like?
Charles Baxter: It varies. Right now, this morning, I’m working at a computer, on the desk, but sometimes I get restless and I put the text onto a laptop so that I can walk around, so that I can take the laptop around the house or actually anywhere and do the writing there. I’m old enough so that when I started writing fiction seriously in the 1970s, I was still working on a typewriter and doing some of the work longhand. I always wrote poetry longhand. And then I went through the various changes in technology, from typewriters to Smith Corona Word Processors to computers.