Next month, the English Department will welcome Julie Schumacher, author and Professor of English and creative writing at the University of Minnesota. Schumacher’s most recent book, Dear Committee Members, is an epistolary novel made up of a year’s worth of recommendation letters written by Jason Fitger, a Professor of literature and creative writing at a fictional university.
Schumacher will read excerpts from Dear Committee Members on Wednesday, February 3rd in Leighton 304 from 5:00-6:30 pm. Refreshments will be served. Read the NPR review of Dear Committee Members here.
This week, Julie Schumacher fills the Miscellany in on her path to writing, her own experiences in academia, and her love of word games.
What inspired you to write Dear Committee Members?
Outside of work, no. At work, possibly. Personally, I think Fitgers abound in academia. Some people have read the novel and decided that Professor Fitger as a thoroughly hostile man, 100% cantankerous. But I find him endearing. He’s entirely lacking in diplomatic skills, personal boundaries, tact, and common sense; on the other hand he cares deeply about education, the arts, literature, his students, and the future of the university. And, like me, he gets tired of hearing people talk about education as if its exclusive purpose were producing bodies for the job market.
What do you enjoy the most about your role as a professor at the U of M? Do you have a favorite class to teach?
Yes, but at first my plan was to be a journalist, because writers seemed to me mythical beings. I had never met one until I got to college. During high school and college I worked on the school paper, and I tried to be a journalist, but found that I wrote much too slowly, and I was bored by assignments thought up by people other than myself. I spent a few years trying to be an editor as well, and the discipline was very good for me — but I worked on magazines rather than books, and the material left something to be desired.