John-McPhee-mcphee

Legendary author John McPhee was working for Time magazine and had just published his first book A Sense of Where You Are about then-basketball superstar (and eventual politician) Bill Bradley. With a success under his belt he angled for a job at The New Yorker with some hard bargaining. Here is the excerpt from The Paris Review:

INTERVIEWER

Did [The New Yorker] offer you a job after the Bill Bradley story?

MCPHEE

After the last proof had gone to press, before I was leaving, I told [New Yorker Editor William Shawn] that I wanted to join The New Yorker staff. Ooh! The tone changed. Shawn turned from this wonderful and benevolent editor of words into a tough customer. He said, Oh, how could he encourage that? How could he know this wasn’t a one-shot deal where somebody produces something good because of their intense commitment to it? And furthermore, I had four children. How on earth could he encourage me to give up a job with a salary and benefits? He said, Morally I can’t do that. He was guiding the conversation toward a real flat dead end.

I said, Having had this experience—publishing these seventeen thousand words, with the spirit of it that the writer be satisfied—how can I go back to writing shorter pieces at Time? And I said, If I can’t work on staff here, I think I’ll go work for a bank or something, and try to write pieces independently for The New Yorker.

And Shawn goes, Oh. Oh, oh. I see. Well, then you might as well join the staff. And that was it. I walked out. That was the very beginning of ’65 and that was the moment I became a staff writer.

Read the entire interview here.

  • Daniel Cole

    Make your goals known. Don’t be afraid to show ambition. That’s what I took away here.

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