How did you get to where you are today?
(He chuckles) Well, I was born and raised in Woodstock, Vermont and educated at the University of Vermont; Trinity College, Dublin; NYU; and Wesleyan I’ve taught English in independent schools in the U.S. and in England and, for more than 40 years I was on the faculty of Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut.
Along the way I married and we have two wonderful children.
When did you know that you wanted to write?
I think I’ve always known that in one way or another. As a boy in Vermont I was an inveterate explorer. I rode everywhere on my bike discovering new places and people and savoring the natural beauty all around me. All these experiences contributed to my desire to write.
Do you have a favorite season to write in?
No. I don’t really have one. The Long Light of Those Days was written over the course of ten summer vacations from teaching. Autumn is good for memoirs because it’s the nostalgia and elegy season. As far as a daily writing routine goes, I generally write in the morning, up until noon or 12:30. I’m not much good after that.
Talk about your writing process.
I write to think and to understand. And I need to find myself up against the ineffable to know I’m on the right track. I revise and revise until suddenly I become the reader; then I know I’ve got it.
What about writer’s block?
I don’t have trouble with it as long as I’m working on something that feels as though it needs to be said. If I get stuck somewhere in the process of writing, I just keep going, slapping down words.
What makes a good story?
Something unusual that makes us reassess details and events of our common life, makes us realize that the extraordinary is never far from—and rises out of—the ordinary. Jane Gardam’s “After the Strawberry Tea” and William Maxwell’s “The Man Who Took His Family to the Seashore” are good examples.