Ron MacLean and Edwin Rutsch: How to Build a Culture of Empathy with Stories and Fiction


Ron MacLean is author of the novels Headlong and Blue Winnetka Skies and the story collection Why the Long Face? His fiction has appeared in GQ, Fiction International, Best Online Fiction 2010, and elsewhere.


He is a recipient of the Frederick Exley Award for Short Fiction and a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee. He teaches at Grub Street in Boston.

 Ron wrote the article: Is Fiction Empathy’s Best Hope? We discussed his article and the relationship of empathy and fiction writing. He writes, “What I do care about is the loss of our ability to identify with others. Empathy is a muscle that must be exercised lest it atrophy. It’s a seed that must be cultivated in order to grow—to live. And in a sped-up society in which connection is increasingly fleeting and often virtual, we can’t take empathy for granted anymore…..


 It’s paradoxical, even absurd—this idea that made-up stories can develop in us an essential human quality. The idea that reading about people who don’t exist could expand our capacity to care about, and act on behalf of, people who do. But it’s true.”