David McCullough is downright huggable. He’s whip-sharp with a clever wit and a memory longer than Michael Phelps’ wingspan. And he’s an incredible writer, storyteller and historian. But it’s all of that plus his affable personality and charm that make him downright huggable. There’s something about him that makes you wish he were your grandfather or uncle. If he were your next-door neighbor, you’d shovel his driveway or save his newspapers from a heavy rain. I imagine toddlers gravitating toward his knee and mouthing, “Up, up.” There’s just something about him.
I attended the National Book Festival on September 2 in Washington, DC, where he talked about his books and writing process. Here are 10 things to know about David McCullough.
- About writing: “I’m not a writer, I’m a rewriter.” He mentioned how important it is to write and cut back, write and rewrite.
- About how many pages he writes per day: “It used to be four pages per day. Now, it’s two pages per day.”
- About how he writes: “I am proud to say that I work on a manual typewriter.” It’s by Royal, and he paid 75 bucks for it at a second-hand store. He’s written everything on it over the last 50 years. And get this: it’s never broken.
- About women at work: “Some of the best people I worked with were women.” He briefly spoke about the challenges women face–like working harder for less pay than men.
- About writing The Johnstown Flood: “I wrote it at night and on the weekends while working full-time.” He left his job to write The Great Bridge, the Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
- About writing The Great Bridge: “I wanted a symbol of affirmation.” After the big success of his book Johnstown Flood, he had been approached to write about other American disasters. He turned those opportunities down, as not to be coined a bearer of bad news.
- If he could invite a non-living president to dinner, it would be: “John Adams.”
- About perseverance: “My favorite people are the ones who don’t give up.” He cited Harry Truman and George Washington among that group.
- Did you know? He has 55 honorary degrees.
- In case you were wondering, his next book is due to be published in 2019.
Any other great tidbits about the incredible David McCullough that you’d like to share?
You can read more about McCullough and other speakers from the festival at The Washington Post. Their article just won’t include words like “huggable.”