Wallace on Writing

A series of Wallace' sketched self-portraitsWinter 2022 Commencement saw Carolina grads recognized and sent off into the world. Drawing on his self-described stubborn march toward writing success, Daniel Wallace hoped to inspire graduates with his speech.

Wallace is known for his novels, including “Big Fish,” which was adapted as a movie and Broadway musical. Also an essayist and illustrator, he is the J. Ross MacDonald Distinguished Professor of English in the College of Arts and Sciences and, until recently, directed the Creative Writing Program for 11 years.

The Well caught up with Wallace on a walk before graduation for a brief Q&A.

On his long path to writing, Wallace remarked that his stubbornness ultimately paid off.

“I had a goal to publish a novel, and after 15 years, I finally did it,” said Wallace. “I was almost 40, which is not so bad. It’s not a race to see who can write the best book first. But I had been trying since I was about 24, so getting to this place where I could say without embarrassment that I was a writer, officially a writer, that has probably been the most gratifying moment for me.”

Wallace described five or six unpublished novels that he wrote before his first novel was published as “really bad.” He credits that writing for his success today.

“It’s really trial and error, especially if, like me, you didn’t go to graduate school. It’s a process of learning what works and, more importantly, what doesn’t work.”

Read the full Q&A with Daniel Wallace…

Related Stories


EnviroLab gets NASA grant for heat mapping

Ask a Professor: Jeff Greene and Matt Bernacki

Ask a Professor: Navin Bapat