About Me

James McGirk

Well-researched features are my specialty. Bylines (i.e. this year) include essays for The Chronicle of Higher Education, Los Angeles Review of Books, Oxford American, The Atlantic, DailyBeast and 3am magazine, reporting for TIME.com, features for ThisLand, Oklahoma Today and The Awl. Details of other work coming soon. Monthly columnist for 3QuarksDaily.com Short story publications include: Manhattan Magazine, Fence, The Drum, 3am magazine, NNATAN, Gigantic and a here-to-fore unnamed anthology of migrant stories.

Teaching experience: Adjunct Professor teaching Composition 1113 (two sections), Speech and Critical Thinking (an intro to Communications) at Bacone College.
Teaching Assistant for “Fiction: A Primer” at Columbia School of the Arts

(Feel free to download my CV) – This is current up to Nov. ’12. I also have an updated one I’m happy to send if you want it.


Columnist for 3QuarksDaily.com

Fiction publications include Fence, The Drum, 3am magazine, Sur+, Manhattan magazine, NNATAN, 3quarksdaily, and Gigantic



Columbia University in the City of New York
MFA, Writing – Fiction
2009 – 2011
Columbia University in the City of New York
BA, Literature-Writing
2004 – 2007

16 thoughts on “About Me

  1. I liked your Daily Beast essay, although some of your fans seem to think that the only books on most Republicans’ shelves are Atlas Shrugged and Mein Kampf bracketing Sean Hannity’s latest. I’d vote for Walker Percy, Willa Cather, John Updike, Mark Helprin, and the underappreciated Paul Lake (at least two on that list are alive). Maybe the problem is that all of our current self-conscious literary fiction has too narrow a focus and is too captive to graduate school fashions. Mark Goldblatt had some thoughts on this matter.

    Thanks for your insights.

    Jon-Mark Patterson
    Loveland, CO

    • Apologies if you receive this twice (wasn’t sure if it sent you one yesterday since I didn’t respond to your comment)

      Dear Jon-Mark,

      Thank you so much for reading my essay and for your suggestions, which I’ll be sure to read. And you’re absolutely right about graduate school, although I prefer to think of it as a supply-side issue: too many of us wannabe novelists flooding the markets, forcing publishers to look at us as a way to fill particular niche rather than judging us on literary merit… As for the fans, please forgive them. The elections have stirred them up.

      James McGirk
      Ridgewood, NY

  2. Hi James, really like your articles. Read your recent scenario on Wikistrat as well and its very thought provoking.

    Wondering if you could help me find some resources for research, I’m interested in getting better in non fiction writing. Economics background working in IT, so need to work on a more clear and concise writing style.


    Iqaluit, Nunavut

    • Angad,

      Thank you for reading my articles! I’ll be sure to look out for your Wikistrat contributions. You must have a unique perspective on this issue, given that you live in Nunavut.

      I would be happy to help. The most basic advice is to write as much as possible and to read as many different types of writing as you can. Even things you don’t like. Especially things you don’t like.

      Other than that, I try to make my sentences as short possible. That’s good way to clean up your writing. Read things out loud. Cut out everything in a sentence that doesn’t need to be there. Try playing around with the rhythm of your sentences. See what happens if you use a mixture of long and short sentences.

      Stephen King’s “On Writing” is a good resource: http://www.stephenking.com/library/nonfiction/on_writing:_a_memoir_of_the_craft.html

      So is George Orwell’s essay “Politics and the English Language” https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

      Feel free to ask me specific questions if you like,


  3. Thanks for writing about Ben Lerner. As the publisher of LEAVING THE ATOCHA station, I think you would have wanted to contact me about this story. I would have been happy to talk to you about the book, and about how it came to me. For one, “big publishers” did not “miss it.” They were not offered the book. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to follow up.

  4. James, I enjoyed your piece “The Search for Serious Literary Fiction for Republicans.” I think I write what you lament the lack of, namely serious fiction for… let us say, conservatives and libertarians. But I have not been able to get one conservative blogger or journalist to even take a look at my work. I include here some of a laudatory review I received from Kirkus for my short story collection, Strange Worlds:

    These eclectic stories feature many of the political riffs and future-shock themes found throughout classic sci-fi; they’re also loaded with enough tragic irony to satisfy die-hard Twilight Zone fans. Some of the best include “Dog Man,” about Steve “Cap” Crowley and the other residents of Penn’s Village Nursing Home, plagued by a cat with a sense for who will die next; “Day, or Two, of The Dead,” in which benign zombies visit from another dimension to bond with loved ones (or failing that, annoy former acquaintances); and “A Working Man,” which reveals a future not unlike that of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where frequent, pointless hookups are the norm—until a rugged loner teaches the lovely Lenina what “gentleman” means. For the grandly comedic finale, “2038: San Francisco Sojourn; The Wrath of God” features Christ returning to find the law-abiding (and prescription-medicated) populace infantilized by left-wing policies run amok. Everyone must wear safety helmets at all times, and fast food meals come with condoms. Disgusted, Christ begins incinerating transgressors, only to be outdone by rapping, nuke-obsessed North Korean President Kim Young Moon. Elsewhere, author Clayton lovingly hints at his influences in clever, poignant stories. “Remembering Mandy” offers shades of Philip K. Dick, as Henley, last survivor of World War III, prepares to sell the memories of his wife to a corporation in exchange for eternal youth. Clayton’s cybernetic humans, enfeebled outcasts and future societies parade maniacally from his fertile imagination… Shorter tales, like “The Triumph,” “The Thing in the Box” and “About Our Cats,” are stunningly compact, envisioning fascinating scenarios readers will want to explore further. Overall, a cutting wit drives commentary on everything from race and religion to father-son relationships and the elderly…

    What can I do to get you and other conservative bloggers and writers to take a look at my work?

    Thank you!

    • Thanks for writing… that’s a difficult question. You probably might want to start reaching out to media that you like — radio might be a good choice, you could also mail copies to the book reviewers at the National Review and Weekly Standard. Try newspapers in red states too, like Wyoming or Oklahoma. For national press journalists are often looking for an interesting hook, so if you contact someone it’s always a good idea to try to find some unique thing about yourself to tout (e.g. mayor of a small town, former farmer who writes PKD-influenced science fiction).

      One thing I’m about to try is making youtube mini documentaries about my stories and using that to drive viewers to my stories… I have no idea if it’ll work, though.

      If you have money to spare it might be worth hiring a publicist

      • Jamie,
        Thanks for responding. I’ll try sending some books out. But I’m not going to spend much more money on this (publicist). The readership in this country has shrank and of those that are left… well, if book is not populated by zombies or vampires and featuring a kick (male) ass heroine, then forget it. I’m afraid my writing must await some future renaissance or the dust bin of history or herstory, whatever as the kids say. Best!

  5. Greetings, James.

    In your travels has an agent ever pulled you aside and expressed an interest to find conservative literary fiction? Thanks.

    • Dear M. P. Gareri,

      Most of the agents I’ve encountered who deal with fiction (and it’s been me reaching out to them as opposed to the other way around) are more interested in literary quality than politics, that said, I think most would consider a more overtly conservative story a harder sell than a normal book. I think some would also argue that the structure of fiction lends itself more to a liberal humanist point of view (just because a story about someone throwing himself against the establishment is more exciting than the other way around). Agents are most interested in what’s new and exciting, so I think there’s always a chance that you can sell a conservative story. Commentary Magazine is the most overtly conservative American magazine that I can think of that buys fiction

      • Thanks, James. Will give CM a try. I understand what you are saying about “overtly conservative” and the “structure of fiction.” I’ve overcome both, I believe. The conservatism arises organically, no moralizing, a lot more showing the story than telling it. The novel could be considered “literary fiction” but may be too humorous for the dour crowd. All the best.

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