Friday, September 12, 2008

Excerpt from "On Failure" by Brandon R. Schrand

Keep your eye out for the next issue of Blood Orange Review appearing online later this month. Below is an excerpt from a forthcoming essay by Brandon R. Schrand entitled "On Failure". To be alerted to the publication of the next issue, which will include the full text of this essay and other great works by new and established writers, enter your contact information in the box to the right of this post.


On Failure

When you Google the words failure + literary + writer in a single search, you will be greeted with 1,970,000 returns. It’s an ominous but not surprising number. Of course not all of those returns deal explicitly with the literary writer as failure, but most do, and I think the number of returns reflects a certain inescapable truth about our business: the writing life is shaped, in one way or another, by failure. It’s one of the only careers in which you begin as a failure. Failure is the baseline, the starting point. Curious about my search results, I thought I would put the number of returns in context of other careers. This is what I learned:

A search for the words failure + librarian yields an alarming if depressing 400,000 results.

A search for failure + cryptozoologist retrieves only 73,600 results.

Googling failure + “worm farmer” yields a mere 508 returns.

And finally, you’ll be happy to know that a search for failure + “cheese attendant” will give you 0 returns.

If there is a lesson to be gleaned from my inquiry, I’m not sure what it is. However, it does strike me as peculiar, refreshing even, that to be a writer engaged in a profession that is colored by failure is another way of saying you are among friends, that there is safety in numbers, as they say. On the other hand, if you failed as a cheese attendant, you would be the first and only failure in that unsung occupation. The cheese attendant would stand alone, in other words, and that cheese attendant would be you. . . .

Brandon R. Schrand is the author of The Enders Hotel: A Memoir, the 2007 River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize winner and a 2008 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Dallas Morning News, The Utne Reader, Tin House, Shenandoah, The Missouri Review, Columbia, Colorado Review, Green Mountains Review, River Teeth, Ecotone, Isotope, and numerous other publications. He has won the Wallace Stegner Prize, the 2006 Willard R. Espy Award, the Pushcart Prize, two Pushcart Prize Special Mentions, and his essay, “The Enders Hotel,” the title piece from his memoir, was a Notable Essay in the Best American Essays 2007. A two-time grant recipient of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, he lives in Moscow, Idaho, with his wife and two children where he coordinates the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Idaho.

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