Writer in the World Podcast EP 6: “The Dark”

Light coming through trees in a dark evening
Anxiety is a disease of the imagination. Release it into your fiction writing.

Can one’s imagination run too wild?

Fiction writer John McManus talks about channeling the dark – anxiety, emotion, even wildly horrible possible futures – into his stories. He shares the evolution of the novel he is currently working on, Magnetic South, in which “fake” reporting about the colloquially-known “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda leads to a big boost in a con artist’s career, and then a subsequent unraveling.

“This is a novel that grew out of the failed draft of an old novel I wrote in 2008…It lay around on my computer and when I went back I realized I…strongly disliked…most of what I saw and the only part I liked at all was a bit of exposition about a trip my protagonist had taken to Kampala.” 

His decade-long process, with breaks for writing new work and also for travel to Uganda, Namibia and Botswana and work with refugees in South Africa, has led to a fundamental revision of that story.

John gives us an inside look at some of his residency workshops and discusses the epistolary form of the semester’s work:  “I can take days or even a week to think about my response, and then I can respond in writing. I became a writer because I express myself better in writing than in person.  Certainly better than when I am in front of a room full of people who expect me to deliver ‘wisdom’. So I have always felt like I am the best possible teacher when I am here at Goddard.”

What darkness do you write to bring light to?

John’s recommended reading: Brawler by Lauren Groff. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/05/13/brawler

Music credits: “Cicle Gerano” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Cicle Kadde; “Cicle Veroni” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Cicle Kadde; “Come As You Are” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Cauldron; “Taoudella” by Blue Dot Sessions, Album: Azalai.

Find out more about Goddard’s low-residency Creative Writing program here.

Read more from John, as well as the other faculty, alumni and students from the Goddard MFA in Creative Writing community, at the blog The Writer in the World.

Important Announcement

The Board of Directors for Goddard College have made the difficult decision to close the college at the end of the 2024 Spring term.  


Current Goddard students will have the opportunity to complete their degrees at the same tuition rate through a teach-out with like-minded institution, Prescott College. Updates and scholarship funds will be available in the coming weeks and months. Information will be posted to www.goddard.edu

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