If you sit in class or your office thinking up stories rather than listening or working, you’ll want to watch this interview with critically-acclaimed author Peter Orner about becoming a writer. Peter has written 4 books and for publications such as The New York Times and The Atlantic. He also happens to be my college roommate!
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Luber: Hey everyone – Are you one of the many lawyers out there who secretly wants to be an author? That’s what we’re looking at today on JD Careers Out There – so stick around! [THEME SONG]
Alright – As you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths you can do with a law degree – both in law and non-legal jobs for lawyers – and we do that to help you find a career that fits you – and help you succeed.
I’m your host Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree to work in alternative careers for lawyers – first in the music industry and then as a legal recruiter. I’ve been helping lawyers with their careers since 2003 and I’m excited for the opportunity to help you.
Our guest today is Peter Orner – and he’s not only an internationally critically acclaimed author, but he’s also my old friend and college roommate. His latest book, Last Car Over The Sagamore Bridge, is a New York Times Editor’s Choice Book AND an Amazon.com Top 10 story collection for 2013.
Peter is a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, he’s been translated in 7 languages, his books are published by Little Brown and ALL OF THEM are big award winners: including Esther Stories, The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, and Love & Shame & Love. Peter’s work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, Granta, Paris Review & Salon. And on top of all that, Peter’s also a Professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University.
I know he’s psyched to share his insights with all of you on becoming a writer – and I’m really psyched that he’s here – so let’s meet Peter! Peter, welcome to JDCOT.
Orner: Oh, it’s great to here, Marc. Thanks for having me.
Luber: Yeah, thank you for being here. I’m really psyched you’re here, because I think so many lawyers want to be writers – so I think it’s going to being really helpful since you’re a lawyer who’s become a critically acclaimed author. I think it’s going to be really helpful to get your insider’s perspective for our audience.
So let me ask you this first, Peter. Since our audience is likely doing a lot of soul searching and trying to figure out if they should be writers, I think it would be really helpful to hear about your story and how you first learned that this is the path you wanted to go down.
And I could tell everybody that when we were college roommates, you used to keep me up all night because you were printing your damn stories all the time! So did you know even then? Tell us your story.
Orner: Well, you know, when I was I keeping you up at night printing my stories, I knew I wanted to write. And I think wanting to write and being a writer and getting paid for it, as you know, is very, very different.
But I’ve always, since I was a little kid, the only thing that I think I could do well, was to tell stories. And in English class or Literature class or whatever it was in Junior High, I wasn’t very good at Grammar, I wasn’t very good at tests on what happened in stories but what I was good at, was telling my own stories.
So I’ve always done it. I mean even, from a very early age on and certainly in college. As you know, I didn’t go to class too much, I just wrote stories and I was lucky that there were certain classes in college that gave me credit for writing stories. And so I’ve always read and wrote forever and ever.
But after college, spending a few years waiting tables and kind of soul searching, as you said, like a lot of people who might be watching this might be in the same boat, I wasn’t sure what to do.
I had always been interested in politics. I had always been in interested in Criminal Law, in particular and I went to law school. And I was happy going to law school. I really enjoyed law school.
I went to Northeastern College of Law in Boston and pretty much loved it. But when I was in college, in law school, I was still doing what I’ve always done, which is write stories. And in fact, in some of the more maybe duller classes, I spent even more time writing.
I remember I got a lot of writing done, in particular in Trust and Estates because the professor would just drone on. He’d sit there and he’d drink his Diet Cokes and he would just drone. For some reason it was sort of like a nice … it was almost like a … what do you call those machines that you use to sleep? It kind of lulled me and I got a ton of work done.
Anyway, I graduated from law school and by that time I was starting to publish stories. And I got a lot of encouragement and I thought I would give a life of writing a shot and it’s worked out since then.
But you know, it kind of helped frame that for me – and also the last thing I would say, is that law school is all about stories. As you all know, lawyers watching this, law is all about stories. So in watching and reading about how people tell them and how people advocate for their side, et cetera, et cetera.
So, for me, the transition between becoming a lawyer and then becoming a working, publishing writer was … they weren’t inconsistent; it was a sort of a trajectory that made sense to me, even though it might sound weird.
Luber: Alright, so who relates to Peter’s story about sitting in class and WRITING instead of listening to the professor?
If that’s you, you’re for sure gonna want to check out the full interview, where Peter talks about how he went from “I like to write” to “I’M AN AUTHOR.”
You’ll hear him share the stuff you want to know about becoming a writer – like whether you need a master’s degree in writing, whether should plan to be a writer on the side instead of full-time, whether journalism is a good way to get your name out there and so much more, including what the lifestyle of being a writer is really like.
You’ll want to join the JDCOT membership for access to the full, in-depth career interviews & transcripts that will help you find and land the right career for you. Check out what people have been saying about JDCOT by clicking here.
Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see ya soon.
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