One of the leasts is not feeling like a writer, so that when asked, what do you do, I answer, teacher, when what I want to say is I am a writer. Sometimes the question is pursued: What do you teach? Writing as an answer seems so presumptuous, as if to say I teach breathing, so I more or less mutter the word writer. And what kind of writing do you do occasionally follows, and I can barely say it, fiction. Fiction seems so—so impossible to manage, so unlikely. Why is it I must feel embarrassed about the one profession by which I would want to be known, but I do; I am embarrassed. Would I know your name is the last question, and what is there to say but probably not?
Another least is the way it feels to be a writer, which is to be forever outside the human circle and never within it, rarely holding hands with anyone but practicing a lonely occupation which involves wheedling and lying for more company, anything for company, for an audience, a reader, someone else to say yes, this is life; yes, it takes the top of my head off.
—Christine Schutt’s first novel Florida was a National Book Award finalist for fiction in 2004. Her second novel All Souls was a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction finalist in 2009. Her new novel Prosperous Friends is out now from Grove Press.