In a 2016 interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, best-selling author Jennifer Weiner recalled her college years studying English at Princeton (Class of 1991). She remembered “how soft-spoken and even-tempered Joyce Carol Oates was and the thrilling cadences of Toni Morrison.” But she credited John McPhee “with teaching her the most about writing.”
Weiner has more to say on her website, www.jenniferweiner.com, describing her path to becoming a professional writer:
I was lucky enough to have John McPhee as a professor, and he was generous enough to give me the best piece of advice ever — go into journalism. “You’ll see a different part of the world. You’ll meet all kinds of people. You’ll be writing every day, on deadline” — which, of course, turned out to be invaluable when it came time to write fiction. Best of all, you’ll be getting paid to write, instead of paying someone to tell you that you can.
I’m now a convert. I think that journalism is just about the perfect career for aspiring young writers. It’s not especially remunerative, nor is it particularly glamorous. But it’s great training. Like John McPhee said, you write every day, and you write on deadline, and you write to fit the space available, which means you don’t grow up into one of those writers who gets sentimental over her sentences or overly attached to her adverbial clauses. McPhee emphasized the work aspect of it, that it was less about talent and less about inspiration and more about just putting your body into that seat every single day and doing the work and doing the revisions, doing more revisions and revising it one more time.