It Doesn’t Suck / Erika Schlenker

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Donald Breckenridge is a jack of all trades: a novelist, a playwright, an editor of two publications, an at-home cook and a wine-seller. But what he enjoys most is working with books. “I believe in the transformative power of literature,” said the Brooklyn dweller in his 135-year-old home. From a young age, reading brought him tremendous pleasure, and he wanted to share the books he loved with as many people as possible.  After discovering that he didn’t just like reading, he loved writing, he surrounded himself with other people who expressed themselves through written word. When he first picked up a copy of the Brooklyn Rail, an art newspaper, he was impressed with the compelling fiction and sent in his own work. It got published, and soon enough he was submitting his own work along with that of his friends. “I’m an advocate,” he said of passionate writers. “I just like good writing.” 

He’s been the fiction editor at “The Rail" since 2001, the co-editor of the Intranslation website since 2007, and most recently the managing editor of Red Dust, an alternative publishing company.  He is the author of more than a dozen plays as well as several novels and novellas.

Donald didn’t always have confidence in his work though. “I’m happy when writing, but I worry that I’m not a very good writer.” His first book still haunts him as a “mutant” and “ugly” tale written with the naivety and blind narcissism of a young writer. Even with harsh criticism toward his first novel, he is grateful for what it taught him. “There is always room for improvement,” he said, meaning that everyone must work hard in order to refine their craft. “You have to give yourself room to laugh at your failures. Humor is important.”

With his fourth novel coming out this fall, and his experience co-writing a play at the current moment, Donald has learned more than a few things about creating quality work. Above everything else, he said, “Rushing will not give perfection.” His approach to staying motivated involves spending hours a day writing. At the end of it, he puts away his words until the next day and looks at them later with fresh eyes. There’s usually one good paragraph every day, and that paragraph gets him going to write the next day, and so on. “That’s progress,” he said. 

To Donald, each of his novels feels like a milestone. With that comes a deep appreciation for the writing community. “Overall just to spend this much time in dialogue in this community is the greatest accomplishment.” He has worked with many incredible writers who have inspired him to keep working at what he loves. 

As advice for other artists, he urges everyone to “take pride in what you do, regardless of how slow the process is or how hard it is to deal with rejection and the frustrations of being a creative person on a day to day level.” Writing is his passion, and it’s what makes him happy. He believes there are so many things that could be better about publishing, but that doesn’t matter because writing is what counts. Your passion, and your drive, and your progress are what count. 


Erika Schlenker is a Junior at Hope College with a major in Creative Writing.