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2021 Trends: Life of a writer

UTC Creative Writing Professor Andrew Najberg on the ups and downs of authorship in 2021.

For local author, educator, and father Andrew Najberg, finding success in writing was never a matter of sitting and waiting for inspiration to hit. Looking back at 2021, it was ultimately a combination of persistence, community involvement, and openness that led to his poetry and prose appearing in celebrated literary magazines and drawing the attention of filmmakers.

“I will say that hands down, 2021 was the single best literary year I’ve ever had,” Najberg said.

Kicking things off with the release of his first collection of poems “The Goats Have Taken Over the Barracks” in March of last year, it was hit after hit until the New Year. In Mid-December, Chattanooga filmmaker Jeromy Gentry wrapped principal photography for the short-film adaptation of Najberg’s short story “Table For Two” with release scheduled for 2022.

“I composed almost two dozen short stories over the summer and revised the collection of poems I'm currently submitting to publishers,” he said.

One of Najberg’s poems is even set to make an appearance in historical literary magazine “North American Review” in 2022.

On top of his own work, Najberg is doing his best to usher in a new generation of local writers as an instructor at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He taught no fewer than five courses in the fall.

“I had one of the best teaching experiences of my career in a special topics class I designed focusing on Magical Realism and the Japanese novel,” Najberg said. “The students in that class reminded me just how proud I am of our university.”

Along with the struggles that are part and parcel of the writing life, Najberg had to contend with a global pandemic on top of it all.

“I've never endured so persistent a personal threat to myself and my family as I saw in Covid,” he said. “We did everything we could to feel safe, but it is simultaneously direct and invisible.”

Along with the virus, 2021 brought political and ideological tensions that made good-faith, open conversations even harder to come by.

“As someone whose main focus is communicating and connecting with people, I see an existential threat to something very fundamental to what it is writers do,” Najberg said. “Never before has writing been more important—or more challenging.”

In 2022, Najberg is set to submit a horror novel along with even more poetry. For him, it’s all about maintaining an active role in the writing community. Even if it means handing out pamphlets in bookstores, coffee shops, on university campuses, or being on social media, if you keep going, Andrew says that your circle will grow and you will grow.

“I know all too many writers who wait,” he said. “They wait for inspiration. They wait for invitations. Momentum is something you build.”

Purchase Andrew Najberg’s book “The Goats Have Taken Over The Barracks” here and you can listen to a reading of his short story "The Saddest Missile" here.

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