"The secret to being a writer is that you have to write. It's not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work." -- Augusten Burroughs
Augusten Xon Burroughs (born October 23, 1965 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) is an American writer known for his New York Times bestselling memoir Running with Scissors (2002).
"And I tend to listen to NPR when I'm not writing.""As a child, I was never drawn toward depraved or extreme situations; I really wanted a normal little childhood. Unfortunately, that's just not what happened.""As a writer, you can't allow yourself the luxury of being discouraged and giving up when you are rejected, either by agents or publishers. You absolutely must plow forward.""Because I've lived in one room my entire life, working at the same table that you use to pay bills at and eat at. It's going to be nice to have actual space.""Before I'm a writer, I'm definitely a reader and when I read memoir, I really want it to be true.""But I can also write in crappy motel rooms, while standing in line, or sitting in the dentist's chair.""But my favorite band is Curbside Life, out of Chicago.""I can't tell you how much I love Target and Costco, that kind of culture, because it's something I never felt a part of. I've always felt like a tourist because I have never fit in anywhere.""I knew that if I wrote a new book every six months or every year, if I continued to read great books, eventually I would write something worthy of publication. I understood I might be in my forties or my fifties or even my sixties, but I felt confident that it would happen.""I like, though, that people have a hunger to connect with other people. They're desperate to know that you're not lying to them or misleading them.""I love to both give and receive very old books.""I never listen to music when I write.""I really look at my childhood as being one giant rusty tuna can that I continue to recycle in many different shapes.""I think people tend to see the bigger point, which is maybe not fitting in and feeling like you didn't have the childhood that you expected you would have, or that you felt lonely or struggled with drugs and alcohol or just that you were able to achieve your dreams.""I think writers tend to be experience junkies, and I think they also tend to want to be on the outside looking in.""I was in advertising for years. That was cushy, you know? It's pretty cushy in a lot of ways, but I hated it.""I was on the cover of a lot of newspapers. I was on the cover of USA Today for every single day for a month. I was on the masthead, so I tend to get recognized a lot, and in weird places. It's always flattering, and it's always odd. It's always at the worst possible time.""I'm always prepared for the worst. I was prepared to have the book come out, sell seven copies, and have to keep working in advertising, so it was just great that it was received so well and by such a huge audience.""I'm like the guy who prepares your taxes or a dentist. I'm very conservative and boring in a lot of ways.""I've just finished my next collection, Possible Side Effects, and I'm now working on a collection of holiday stories as well as a memoir about my relationship with my father.""Marriage is overdone. As long as there are people, people are going to find it interesting.""My only ritual is to just sit down and write, write every day.""My parents had this relationship that was really terrifying. I mean, the level of hatred that they had, and the level of physical abuse - my mother would beat up my father, basically - and I think I was drawn to images on television that were bright and reflective.""Once I decided to write, to be published, I knew it would happen.""Reading takes solitude and it takes focus.""There's never a false note in a Berg novel.""When people meet me, many times they're very surprised because they expect someone who is kind of wacky with seven piercings and very hip and cool and New York City, and I'm not.""With my own memoirs, they are truthful, and I write everything fully expecting to some day end up televised on Court TV, and I'm fully prepared to be challenged legally on it."
Born Christopher Robison in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the youngest of two sons to Margaret Robison, a poet, and John G. Robison, former head of the philosophy department at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is also the younger brother of memoirist John Elder Robison. Though he was born in Pittsburgh, he was raised in western Massachusetts towns, including Shutesbury, Amherst and Northampton. His parents divorced on July 29, 1978, when Burroughs was twelve years old, and was adopted by his mother's psychiatrist whom resided in the Northampton area.
Burroughs dropped out of school after the sixth grade, and obtained a GED at age 17. He chose his name at age 18, and legally changed it in Boston. He later enrolled at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, Massachusetts as a pre-med student, however dropped out before the end of the first semester. He decided to settle in New York City, and held a high-paying career in a Manhattan-based advertising company. In 1996, he sought treatment for alcoholism at a rehabilitation center in Minnesota before returning to Manhattan.
His books are published by St. Martin's Press and Picador. Some of his childhood experiences were chronicled in Running with Scissors (2002), which was later developed into a film.In addition to Scissors, Burroughs penned a second memoir, Dry (2003), about his experience during and after treatment for alcoholism. It was followed by two collections of memoir essays, Magical Thinking (2003) and Possible Side Effects (2006). His first novel, Sellevision (2000), is currently in production as a feature film.
Burroughs' writing focuses on subjects such as advertising, psychiatrists, religious families, and home shopping networks. It has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, House & Garden, BlackBook Magazine, New York, The Times, Bark, Attitude, and Out. Burroughs writes a monthly column for Details. Early in his career, he was a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.
Burroughs has been profiled in People, The Guardian, and Entertainment Weekly, where he ranked 15 on the 2005 list of "The 25 Funniest People in America" and was named to the magazine's "It List".
In a January 2005 interview, reflecting on his life with his (now former) partner, graphic designer Dennis Pilsits, Burroughs said paying tax should allow same-sex couples full legal entitlements: "That’s what gay people need to be allowed to do — get married. Not have domestic partnerships; that’s not acceptable. I don’t believe for a moment [gay marriage] would destroy the sanctity of marriage. But let’s just say for a moment that it does. Well, then the sanctity of marriage just has to be destroyed. It’s just too bad. You can’t have one set of benefits and only give them to some of the people."
In 2005, Universal Studios and Red Wagon Productions bought the rights to a film based on a then-unreleased memoir about Burroughs' relationship with his father. The book, called A Wolf at the Table, was released on April 29, 2008.
In October 2009, Burroughs released Stories for Christmas, a book of short Christmas stories based on true events that occurred during his childhood.
Burroughs divides times between New York City and Amherst, Massachusetts.
In August 2007, Burroughs and his publisher, St. Martin's Press, settled with the Turcotte family, who stated that they were the basis for the Finch family portrayed in the book. The Turcottes, who alleged that Running with Scissors was largely fictional and written in a sensational manner, sought damages of $2 million for invasion of privacy, defamation, and emotional distress. Burroughs defended his work as "entirely accurate", but agreed to call the work a "book" (instead of "memoir") in the author's note, to alter the acknowledgments page in future editions to recognize the Turcotte family's conflicting memories of described events, and express regret for "any unintentional harm" to the Turcotte family. Burroughs felt vindicated by the settlement. "I'm not at all sorry that I wrote [the book]. And you know, the suit settled-- it settled in my favor. I didn't change a word of the memoir, not one word of it. It's still a memoir, it's marketed as a memoir, [the Turcottes] agreed one hundred percent that it is a memoir."
Upon settling the Running With Scissors case in August 2007, Burroughs stated, "I consider this not only a personal victory but a victory for all memoirists. I still maintain that the book is an entirely accurate memoir, and that it was not fictionalized or sensationalized in any way. I did not embellish or invent elements. We had a very strong case because I had the truth on my side."
Running With Scissors was made into a film in 2006. It was directed by Ryan Murphy, produced by Brad Pitt, and starred Joseph Cross, Annette Benning, Alec Baldwin and Evan Rachel Wood. Benning was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role.
Burroughs is currently writing the screenplay for two upcoming television series: he is working on a Showtime series based on his memoir, Dry, and writing a drama series for CBS titled The Nature of Fire, which follows a group of male firefighters.