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Upstreet Interviews Robert Olen Butler

Robert Olen Butler is a Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction with fourteen novels and six volumes of short fiction. His work has been translated into nineteen languages, and he has traveled all over lecturing about creative writing. In the tenth issue of upstreet, Editor Vivian Dorsel publishes an interview she conducted over the phone in March. Beyond the typical questions about writing process, favorite authors, and inspiration, Dorsel asks some interesting questions such as “Do you think it’s important for the student to like his or her teacher’s writing?”

Here’s his response: “Being a good writer and being a good writing teacher do not necessarily go together. To that extent, the answer is no. Just because you like somebody’s writing, it doesn’t mean he or she is going to be able to teach you anything, or even e able to read you effectively. The questions is really more if a student of writing should feel an aesthetic kinship with the teacher’s writing. As a student, you’re apt to get a better quality of response and criticism from teachers if you know that as readers, as sensibilities, they are in tune with the aesthetics you gravitate toward. But of course students usually go to creative writing programs before they’ve gotten in touch with their own aesthetic, so there’s not an easy answer, and ultimately it depends on the quality of your teacher’s sensibility and his or her ability to respond to your work on its own terms.”

Read the rest of the review in the tenth issue of upstreet.

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