An Interview with Bridget Dugan
Summer Freed chatted with Bridget Dugan, Trouble Child’s co-editor in chief, about finding good books and asking the right questions.
Summer Freed: What sparked your interest in editing?
Bridget Dugan: There’s a story John Green tells about how his book The Fault in Our Stars almost ended with one character tying another character to railroad tracks “as an exploration of the trolley problem,” but his editor thankfully forced him to rewrite it. That story blew my mind. It helped me realize that behind every great author is a really, really great editor, and I knew I wanted to be that editor.
SF: How do you decide what to read next?
BD: Friends! Lovely friends! One of the pros of being an English major is that you’re never at a loss for great book recommendations. The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison was recommended to me by Trouble Child’s managing editor Aubrey Asleson, and now it’s one of my all-time favorites. Also, Goodreads! If you’re not on Goodreads, you need to be on Goodreads.
SF: Is there a piece of writing that has had a significant impact on the course of your life?
BD: The New York Times published a piece called “The 36 Questions That Lead to Love” that lays out thirty-six questions ranging from “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” to, “Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing?”
One of my absolute favorite things to do is sit down with someone and go through these questions. I’ve done it with people I’ve just met, my family, and my best friends, and it’s endlessly thought-provoking each time, no matter who it is. It really shows you how people think about themselves and the world around them, and it also helps you see how you’ve grown and changed. This may sound weird, but I’m always surprised by how good people are, and how complex everyone’s life is. These questions are a shortcut through the bullshit, and they also restore my faith in humanity, so it’s a win-win in my opinion! Please sit down with someone in your life and do them! Please!
SF: You brought up "The 36 Questions That Lead to Love." Is there a question you'd like to add to the list?
BD: My friends and I actually came up with our own list of thirty-six questions on a road trip. One I really loved was, “What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you or said to you?” I love this question because I think people keep bad memories at the front of their minds and good memories at the back. But once you start thinking about it, you remember so many compliments you had forgotten, or random acts of grace. When I’m feeling hopeless, I ask myself that question. We can always come up with more kindness than we think.
SF: What are some little things you want to accomplish in your life?
BD: What a wonderful question. I currently speak a little French and a little German, and I would love to speak a lot of French or a lot of German. I want to own a well-organized bookshelf, I want to be a really cool aunt, I want to write and finish a song, I want to be a good friend, I want to learn embroidery, and I want to bake a lot of bread.