Ward Just is a local author who has capitalized and then transcended his roots. Read below for his own words about his career and why he writes.
Ward Just, born in 1935, was raised in Waukegan, Illinois, the son and grandson of newspaper publishers, and the great grandson of Chicago mayor George B. Swift. In 1946, the family moved to the North Shore (Lake Forest) but Just considers Waukegan his hometown. From the age of fourteen he worked summers at the family newspaper, The News-Sun, and returned as a reporter after dropping out of college. In 1959 he joined the Chicago bureau of Newsweek, and went on the bureaus in Washington and London. He joined The Washington Post in 1965 and became its Saigon correspondent later that year. In 1967, he returned again to Washington as a political reporter for the newspaper and, in 1968, as an editorial writer. He left the newspaper business for good the following year with the intention of writing fiction. In the thirty-five years since, he has written thirteen novels, three collections of short stories, a play, a memoir, and a study of the United States Army. His fourteenth novel, An Unfinished Season, was published in July, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin. He has received the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award for fiction, the Cooper Prize for fiction, the National Magazine Award for fiction, and was a finalist for the National Book Award for fiction (Echo House, 1997). His work is widely anthologized and has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Russian.
Ward Just lives in Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts, with his wife, Sarah Catchpole. He has three children and four grandchildren.
Why Do I Write?
Most writers start out crosswise to society, misfits to one degree or another, malcontents disinclined to bend to the world’s demands, which seem by turns absurd, ludicrous, delightful, cruel, tragic. Edith Wharton said she felt an exile from the world and so she emigrated to the republic of Letters. Some misfits turn to crime or politics; the writer’s revenge is to write, having first begun to read. Begin with nursery rhymes and graduate to boys’ adventure stories and in your early teens discover Hemingway and Fitzgerald and before you know it you’re living in Yoknapatawpha County, a country more real than your own. Later on, introductions are made to the great Russians, and to the Germans, Czechs, French, Spanish, and British. Turgenev, Benjamin, Kafka, Balzac, Lorca, and too many British and Irish to list. All this time you are discovering, acre by acre, your own country. I have been fortunate to live in a great many places, in Britain, in Spain, in Vietnam, Ireland, France, and Germany. I took away something from each place, as my novels attest. Now I live on Martha’s Vineyard, an island within sight of the mainland but distinct from it. I do not expect move again.
That’s the short form to the question, Why do you write?
It also helps to enjoy telling a story.”