Last week, some of our students had the wonderful opportunity to have a phone call with Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael, My Ishmael, The Story of B, Providence, and various other novels. Our sophomores have just finished reading Ishmael and are working on their final papers for the unit, and all of our students have just begun writing novels for our participation in National Novel Writing Month (we’ll have updates on that later this month!). The opportunity to speak with Mr. Quinn was phenomenal; Ishmael has been in print continuously since its publication in 1991 and has been translated into over 20 languages. It’s been used in courses ranging from History to Anthropology to Philosophy to English (and everything in between) and he’s been invited to speak at various universities across the country.
Our girls asked him questions on everything they could think of regarding Ishmael and what it takes to be a writer, and we learned that he doesn’t believe in writers block. If you have something to say, the words will come. Of course, they may need to be heavily revised and edited, but when a writer has something to say, writing is the natural outlet. We also learned that if he could redo Ishmael, he would clarify the gender of the narrator as it’s been a point of uncertainty for some readers. Many of his novels took twelve years to be ready for publication, and he’s working on another right now.
I’m most proud to say that he was very impressed with our students. During the process of setting up the interview, he mentioned that Ishmael was not intended for readers as young as our students. When our interview concluded, he stated that this was one of his most difficult interviews ever as our students asked very challenging questions and made him think. I walked out of the room on clouds, and am so very excited to share how well our girls performed with this prestigious writer!