The writer Rus Bradburd has quite the unique life story. He coached college basketball for fourteen years at New Mexico State University and UTEP before leaving the coaching ranks to pursue a career as a writer. And I'd say it was a good career move. His first book, Paddy on the Hardwood: A Journey in Irish Hoops (University of New Mexico Press, 2006) is about his experience coaching a low level basketball league in Ireland after burning out on Division I basketball in the states. His second book, Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson (Harper Collins, 2010) is a biography of the legendary University of Arkansas basketball coach. His fiction has appeared in Puerto del Sol, the Colorado Review, the Southern Review, and Aethlon, and his essays have appeared in SLAM and Bounce Magazines, as well as the LA Times and Houston Chronicle.
Bradburd earned his MFA from NMSU in 2002, where he is now assistant professor in the Department of English.
Talk about your invention process. What do you do to come up with ideas?
I've been lucky to have stumbled on to two good book ideas for my . Nearly all of my fiction comes out of my experiences working in college basketball.
Talk about your composing process. Do you have a regular routine?
My wife, the poet Connie Voisine, gave me simple advice: "Sit your ass in the chair for two hours a day." That was a good place to begin. Like most people, I'm more analytical in the morning, more emotional at night. So the fact that my writing times might very could make my state of mind uneven, I suppose. But I don't think it's any great secret about sitting your ass in the chair. Also, for me, I think of it as a physical process, like working out. I sit and make myself type, like doing situps. Then, as I break I sweat I figure, well, I might as well keep on.
What about your revision process?
I write a lot of shitty drafts and keep revising. That's the Robert Boswell method, although my shitty drafts are certainly worse than his. The problem: I'm impatient and have often sent out manuscripts that were not close to being ready. I have a dear friend who does the opposite: he sits and stares until he works out the next sentence. That's what I've heard Allistair MacLeod does, and he's one of my favorites.
As a professional writer, do you set goals each day for how much you are going to write?
Are there any quirky parts of your that help you write?
I have an old fashioned Palm Pilot: 3x5 cards that I always carry and jot ideas on. I upgraded to multi-color a few years ago to keep up with the technology.
What do you do when you get writer's block?
Well, there are times when I get a block of some sort, but I have enough to do (writing-wise) that refocus me: edit a more complete story, play with the order of the stories, rethink some titles--meaning I don't think you have to sit there as the clock is ticking away thinking, "Now what?" I just try to do something else productive that is related to the book.
You've lived in several places. How does your environment affect your writing process?
I think New Mexico and El Paso have a certain allure that is conducive to writers. Some of our best live (or have lived) in the area for years: Robin Romm, Craig Holden, Shelia Black, Don Waters, Abraham Verghese, Dagoberto Gilb, Lee Merrill Byrd, Kevin McIlvoy, Connie Voisine, Richard Greenfield, Carmen Gimenez-Smith, , Bobby Byrd, Don Kurtz, Tony Hoagland, Alex Parsons, Dave MacLean, Rob Wilder, Evan Smith, Henry Shukman, Joe Somoza....it's pretty astounding. Also, nearly all of them are accessible. That's the southwest for you. The weather and spicy food and tequila: bringing writers together for years. In Ireland, the rain kept you inside. I found most of my inspiration in Ireland from the traditional music....or, rather, the traditional musicians., Robert Boswell, ,
If you could construct your perfect writing environment, what would it be?
I'd sit behind Antonya Nelson and have her just delete her name at the top of her latest short story and type mine in.
Is exercise a part of your writing process? If so, do you find that it makes you more creative or helps in your invention stage?
Yes. When I stopped playing basketball, I went to the boxing gym for years. For one thing, that puts you outside of the academy or your comfort zone. I think the workout is a crucial part of the process for me.
What are the two or three most valuable practical editing/revising tips you would give writers?
Find a friend who understands your work but does not coddle you. I've been getting great feedback from Robert Boswell, Barry Pearce, and John Conroy for years. But I'm often black and blue after their comments. Yet I want all three to know that I've forgiven them for most of their comments.
For people who want to write clear, direct prose, what authors would you recommend they read?
Read John Conroy's writing about torture. And lately I've been deep into . I think he's brilliant and deceptively simple. He's a sort of genius. And the only thing more clear and direct than Dagoberto Gilb would be a punch in the mouth.
For some people, writing on deadline can be stressful. The more they think about the deadline, the less they are able to write. Any advice you can give?
Get Allistair MacLeod's collected stories, Island. Just flip from title to title and see how much time elapsed before he published another story. Yet, most of us will never write anything that approaches the power and grace of a MacLeod story. He's not in a hurry.
What is it like to write in so many different genres?
That's why I feel like I'm not in competition with anyone: I'm writing about and from "me." Nobody else can do that. So I've never been jealous or envious of the success of the great writers in my area. Wait. I am a little envious of . But he's so much better than me there's no real pressure to catch him, and he's in Seattle. And Shields writes in several genres. So does Eula Biss, whose " " is the best book on race I've read in a while. Writing the nonfiction books first helped me get my confidence and think about an entire book. Now that I'm back on my short stories, it's not so daunting.
What one book would you tell a basketball player to read?
I think Black Planet, the David Shields book about race is one of the best. I don't mean one of the best basketball books, I mean any book. Basketball is about 10% of that book.
...And it can't be a book having anything to do with sports.
When I first heard about Robin Romm's book, The Mercy Papers,"well, it seemed like a book for women. But that little book is devastating and powerful. It's a kick in the gut, totally fearless. There was an element of courage in writing that book about her mother's horrible death that I think any player should read -- if only to see how far guts can take you.