4/1/17 PERSPECTIVE My MFA in creative writing came from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA. It was 1995 and I was positive that a short story in a literary journal for zero money would be nirvana. The Alaska Quarterly Review, a lit mag that led my friends to believe I’d written fish and hibernating stories, was first to say yes. The story was about a lonely and unheard little girl who takes a bus to a ballet class on her birthday. Not a moose for miles, and the journal wanted my human condition textures. With my only dream in life fulfilled, I set out to do it again, to feel the euphoria of the “yes”, the way it found me without warning, making me a “hitter” somehow, just by answering my phone. My second yes was from River Styx Magazine, a lit mag out of St. Louis. Payment would be two copies of the journal and the ability to say, “Two stories!” published. Two of them, as in, more than one but less than three. The fourth wouldn’t come until I’d written half of a novel after grad school. It was basically a three hundred page short story about the same girl but she grew to college age to deal with the death of her taciturn father. The notion of how I was going to make a living and also assuage my parent’s concerns that I might not even be good enough to be invited to Jonathan Safran Foer’s house for cocktails. My parents were psyched I had a girlfriend who made a salary. I didn’t know how to be excited about anything but crushing a centuries-old art form that was being swallowed to extinction by “better and faster” entertainment. Every person driven by that which pays in soul, has quite a sacrifice to make. Perhaps the true sacrifice is in bending one’s attitude about the written word in a way that actually pays. There’s a painful facet to cherishing an art form that is lost to pop culture. But there’s the possibility of the blank screen, that first line, a character breathes on stage and is joined by another. They converse and are interrupted by a neighbor. A story has begun. Even if no one reads it.
About Joshua Braff
I grew up in South Orange, New Jersey, and went to Columbia High School. I graduated from NYU in ’91 with a BS in Education. In 1995 I entered St. Mary’s College of California. There I received an MFA in creative writing/fiction. I published three short stories during this time in national literary journals before I wrote a first novel called Digging Suburbia. I was never able to sell it but acquired my first literary agent with the book. I wrote The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green after my son turned 6 months old. The book would have three publishing offers right after I finished it two years later. I started writing Peep Show after hearing a story about a man who was an orthodox Jew, living in Long Island, who commuted to Times Square to run peep houses. The book turned out to be a complex ride about familial relationships and the tangles that disenchantment and history and self-absorption can cause. I live in California with my wife of almost 20 years and my two children, Henry and Ella. I love the game of baseball and played until I turned 40. I also love acrylic/oil painting in the Color Field genre. I’m most inspired by the painters, Barnett Newman, Dan Christensen, Kenneth Noland and Mark Rothko. I also play the guitar and drums.
- An ALA Notable Book
- Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers (2004)
- Top 10 Booklist 1st Novels List