Alumnus Don Winslow (‘75), New York Times bestselling author of 21 novels, will return to campus March 30 to April 1 to be recognized as an Alumni Master and visit with students.
The Alumni Association’s Alumni Masters Program links outstanding alumni with students who can benefit from their experiences and knowledge, as well as honor alumni for their success and leadership. Alumni speak about ways to apply formal education to working situations and career goals.
Winslow grew up with a love of books in a small coastal Rhode Island town. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska, focused on African Studies and journalism, before moving to New York City to become a writer.
Winslow later earned a master’s degree in military history. He said being Pete Maslowski’s student and teaching assistant in graduate school was a pivotal moment that set him up for career success.
“He demanded quality and accountability, and taught me research and writing techniques that I use to this day,” he said.
While traveling between continents, he wrote his first novel, A Cool Breeze On The Underground, which was nominated for an Edgar Award. A film and publishing deal for The Death and Life of Bobby Z allowed him to write full-time.
For students who want to become authors, his advice may sound familiar: write, and read.
“I know that sounds glib, but it really isn’t,” he said. “Writers write. Before it’s a noun, it’s a verb. There’s no other way to get good at it, you just have to put the time in. Write and write and write, even though you know you’re to throw away most of it.
“And read. Good writers read. And read the good stuff. It’s sort of like food – garbage in, garbage out. I probably learn something every day from reading.”
He has published short stories in Esquire, the LA Times Magazine, Playboy, and other magazines and anthologies. His columns have appeared in outlets such as Vanity Fair, Vulture, Huffington Post, and CNN Online. He co-wrote a television series, “UC/Undercover” and the screenplay of his novel Savages. Twentieth Century Fox optioned his next novel about a NYPD cop as well as The Cartel and The Power of the Dog.
Winslow received the Raymond Chandler Award (Italy), the LA Times Book Prize, the Ian Fleming Silver Dagger (UK), The RBA Literary Prize (Spain) and other awards.
His advice for his 20-year-old self? That failure is the first step to success.
“I’ve learned over the years that I had to go through failures to get to success,” he said. “I’m an expert at failure—experience, experience, experience. Every first draft is an exercise in failure, almost by definition. But then you get to fix it.”
Join the film studies discussion with Winslow and James Brunton, Assistant Professor of Practice and coordinator of the Film Studies Program, on Thursday, March 31, at 2:00 p.m. in Bailey Library, Andrews Hall 228/229.