Between the Lines: Jack Driscoll's Craft

Feb 24, 2017

Jack Driscoll
Credit Pete Fromm

There's a blank page, and on that page, waiting to be born, is the opening sentence. It's a writer’s greatest torment and seduction. For Jack Driscoll, it’s irresistible. He’s the author of eleven books of poetry, novels, and short stories. His new story collection, The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot (Wayne State University Press, April 2017), was no different. It's a work of love of, sometimes a struggle with, the craft of writing, sometimes with a muse on fire.


“Nothing ever comes full-blown to me,” Driscoll says. “In fact, I have no clue where I’m headed. But I believe that if I can write an opening sentence that’s interesting enough for me, then I can get a story, having no idea where it’s headed.”

Driscoll is known for his unwavering belief in revision. He's said to have never written a sentence he didn't revise at least once. Even so, when it comes to The Goat Fish and the Lover’s Knot

“It was maybe the single greatest writing stretch of my life,” Driscoll says. “In any genre. They just came. It was the kind of fire I hadn’t experienced in a long time.”

Credit Wayne State University Press

As with most of Driscoll's work, most stories in his latest book are based in Northern Michigan, where he lives. Driscoll says place is often as much of a character in his stories as the people who inhabit them. He says he loves to write about people “who dare to hope against hope, even when the odds are so stacked against them.”

As important as writing is to Driscoll, he cherishes the work of his students as much, if not more, than his own. He teaches in Pacific University’s low- residency MFA program in Oregon. With a personal library that takes up an entire room in his home, Driscoll reserves one section exclusively for the published work of his students.

“Nothing buoys my spirits more than seeing my students do well,” he says. “My wife and I are bibliophiles, book collectors. I don’t know how many thousands of books (we have); I’ve lost count. But I would give away all the other books I own just to keep that one shelf of books by my students.”

Driscoll's advice to his students and other writers: "Touch your work every day.” And never fear revision.

Jack Driscoll is a two-time NEA Creative Writing Fellowship recipient and the author of eleven books, including the short story collections, Wanting Only to Be Heard (winner of the AWP Short Fiction Award) and The World of a Few Minutes Ago (winner of the Society of Midland Authors Award and the Michigan Notable Book award).

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