Author Michael Hainey encourages North Central College students to pursue writing

Oct 02, 2013

Author and GQ magazine editor Michael Hainey hopes his writing and words of advice inspire some North Central College students to pursue creative projects of their own.

Hainey, author of the best-selling and critically acclaimed memoir “After Visiting Friends” spoke with students and fielded their questions Sept. 24 during a visit to campus. He also read from his book and took audience questions during an author talk in Meiley-Swallow Hall.

“You’re going to encounter artists who inspire you,” Hainey told a small group of journalism students during an afternoon session in Kiekhofer Hall. “Your lives are not ordinary. It’s what you make of the material.”

Hainey’s book reveals his search for answers related to his father’s 1970 death. It has been hailed for its literary merit as a compelling personal narrative that captures rich details of Chicago’s newspaper history. His father, Robert, was a night editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, and Hainey encouraged the journalism students to develop good reporting techniques.

“Train your eyes to observe. Build your powers of description, insight, nuance and detail,” he said. Reporters and interviewers need to be good listeners, he added.

Later that afternoon, Hainey shared writing advice with a larger audience in Koten Chapel that included students from Associate Professor of English Zachary Jack’s Introduction to Creative Writing class and graduate students in Professor of English Richard Guzman’s master’s of leadership studies (MALS) writing, editing and publishing track.

“As you write, you have to learn to be an editor yourself,” Hainey said. “Great writing gets workshopped. You can’t be defensive about it. Nothing comes fully formed.”

As a deputy editor at GQ magazine, Hainey has interviewed such cultural icons as Keith Richards and Clint Eastwood. He’s a regular at New York Fashion Week events, as is his wife, Brooke Cundiff, vice president of brand relations/fashion director at Park and Bond. He’s helped build GQ’s circulation and guide it to five National Magazine Awards for writing and general excellence.

“The best writers I work with know what they don’t know,” he said. “Writers who don’t succeed don’t see their work getting better.”

His author talk at Meiley-Swallow Hall that evening was attended by his in-laws, Life Trustee John D. Bramsen ’60 and Norma Bramsen, and President Troy D. Hammond. Hainey’s visit to campus was hosted by the President’s Office and the College’s Cultural Events program.