The Narrative Nonfiction Writing concentration was kicked off by a campus visit from memoirist, editor, and indie-rocker Jon Fine. His memoir, Your Band Sucks: What I Saw at Indie Rock’s Failed Revolution, made the New York Times summer reading list and has received wide critical praise. The book explores Fine’s experiences with a number of indie rock bands, mostly in the 1990s, and is equal parts travel narrative, music history, and memoir. Fine is based in New York City and is the executive editor of Inc. Magazine.
Fine attended two classes and ate lunch with a group of students at the Lisska Center for Scholar Engagement. The lunch discussion centered on careers in writing and editing. Fine said it’s a hard path but not impossible. He explained that what got him to where he is now is a combination of being at the right place at the right time and knowing how to hustle.
“It’s a dog eat dog world out there,” Fine said. “But all you have to do is sit and write. Write as much as you can and keep writing till it gets good because it won’t be good till the 20th draft and then some.”
In a reading co-sponsored by the Beck Writers Series, Fine read an excerpt from his book. He then talked about his career as writer and editor, emphasizing that writers have to be bold, resourceful, and confident. And, he said, it helps to move to a big city like LA or New York where if one thing fails, you can move on to the next.
Fine added, that as an editor, he’s “not interested in the graduate from Harvard. I’m interested in the hard-worker who comes from nothing and has a story to tell.” He graduated from Oberlin and pointed out that a liberal arts education is a good jumping-off-point for a career in writing or editing because it encourages diverse studies and critical thinking.
Most importantly, he said, writers have to hustle, Fine says. That’s the ethos of indie rock.