Q: How can you tell within the first ten minutes of meeting someone if they went to Harvard?
A: If you can’t, they’ll tell you.
Left for Alive got its start years ago, when I was doing my graduate work AT HARVARD in the highly lucrative field of Biblical Archaeology. A novel that I was working on came to the attention of the Nieman Foundation, a prestigious program that takes the top journalists from around the world and gives them a free year—at full pay—of study at Harvard. Part of that program includes a fiction writing program for those journalists who are looking to expand their skills in fiction writing.’ To make the program more democratic, the Foundation invited a couple of students into the program as well. I was lucky enough to be one of the students invited.
It was an incredible opportunity. In addition to being coached by Ann Beattie, one of the top short-story authors of our time, the writing circle met regularly with invited guests. From Noam Chomsky to Rupert Murdoch to authors like John Irving and John Updike, we were exposed to—and had active dialogues with—some of the great writers and influential thinkers of our time.
Under the Foundation’s guidance, I was able to finish my novel. The Nieman folks thought enough of it that they sponsored it for publication. It made the rounds of the agents and publishing houses in New York, but was never published. The feedback was that it was ‘too dark for a first novel.’ And so I put the novel in a drawer, finished my degree, and pursued a career in teaching, both at the high school and university levels. But, like Lazarus, the novel came back from the dead. More on that in the next blog.