“I don't write with a scheme or a plan. I write word to word, so whatever that first sentence is, having said that, one more or less had to say what comes next and next and next. Guilty of no cogitation or forethought.” – Padgett Powell
Born on this date in 1952, Powell has published 6 novels and 3 collections of short stories, his latest being Cries for Help, Various. His fiction and non-fiction have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, Paris Review, Best American Short Stories. Powell’s writing primarily focuses on the American South earning him a spot in what has been labeled “The Southern American Tradition,” even though he might not label it that way himself.
A writing professor at the University of Florida, he says writers, unless they are wildly successful, should probably keep “a day job.” And while he’s not “wildly successful,” he’s done pretty well, being nominated for The American Book Award for his novel Edisto, and winning the prestigious James Tait Black Memorial Prize, one of Great Britain’s highest literary honors, for You and Me.
“I write failed novels,” he says on his U. of Florida website. “Sometimes the failure is apparent by page three. Sometimes it is not apparent until two hundred pages have obtained. The readiness to recognize failure seems to be a function of age. A youngster—I’d have said young man but I have learned not to gender it—may press on with a bad idea that an oldster may have the wit to abandon. A thirteen-page ‘story’ then spares us from a three-hundred-page ‘novel’.” “If you're going to write a book that might, in its very best accidental career, sell 30,000 copies, you've got to have a day job.”