The Two Sides of Peter Selgin

“The writer and the artist in me needed each other.”

A two-fisted writer-artist, Peter Selgin, award-winning novelist, essayist, playwright, memoirist, short story writer, and children’s book author, earned his living as a freelance artist for thirty-six years, his paintings and illustrations featured in the likes of The New Yorker, Forbes, Gourmet, and Outside, before deciding to abandon the visual arts for the literary. In 2009 he left New York for Georgia where he secured a job as professor of creative writing at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.

“My art supplies went into storage. No more dividing myself between my two loves: writing and painting. Though I¹d published some books, I saw myself not as a successful visual artist who wrote, but as an author burdened by his day job. As an academic, I¹d have summers off and sabbaticals. I¹d immerse myself in books and writing and thereby realize my dream: to succeed as a writer.

“Five years later, having moldered away in a warehouse, my art supplies joined me, along with hundreds of paintings and drawings stuffed into portfolios: the fruits of that forsaken life, smelling of must and mildew and already yellowing with age. It was like being reunited with an old friend. I knew then that segregating the writer from the artist in me had been a mistake. They needed each other.

“The writer needed the artist to balance himself, to take refuge from the verbal realm in the realm of lines, shapes, and colors. Seeing clearly through one medium helps me see more clearly through the other, while also giving that other a rest ― the way an athlete rests one set of muscles while training another. But in designing book covers–something I took up several years ago–my art and my writing combine more directly. With book covers, just as the visual experience of the cover is meant to convey the book inside, words become part of the cover’s visual design. Of all the things I’ve done as writer or artist, none has integrated my two loves more thoroughly.”

Here’s a Selgin watercolor titled “Half Moon Overlook.”


Among Selgin’s literary works are:  Drowning Lessons (2011) winner of the 2007 Flannery O¹Connor Award for Fiction, Duplicity (2020) ,winner of both the National Indie Excellence Book Award and the Best Indie Book Award for 2021, two memoirs, including The Inventors (2016) which won the 2017 Housatonic Book Award, several children’s books, and three books on the craft of writing including Your First Page: First Pages and What They Tell Us about the Pages that Follow Them. His stories and essays have appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including Glimmer Train Stories, Best American Essays 2009, and Best American Travel Writing 2014.

Please check out The Writer’s Brush: Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture by Writers for more than 400 plates of artwork by great writers and the stories behind them.

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