"When people talked about it, I thought it was total bullshit—the whole thing when authors are like, ‘My characters just came and they told me what they needed to do.’ That actually, I found out, is a real thing, because you have to actually do this sort of deep empathic work of imagining how other people think and feel for it to work."
"It usually starts with a scene, or a sentence. A half-formed idea. Maybe you have an idea for a sentence. You repeat the sentence in your head until you know it by heart, then you want to write it down. Or you have half an idea for a scene—it’s in the distance, it’s a little foggy, but you can see it’s there. You aim for it. You start making your way down the road towards it. You either eventually arrive there, or, you get sidetracked and end up somewhere else entirely."
"Sometimes I think my whole professional life has been based on this hunch I had, early on, that many people feel just as muddled as I do, and might be happy to tag along with me on this search for clarity, for precision. I love that aspect of writing. Nothing makes me happier than to hear a reader say: that’s just what I’ve always felt, but you said it clearly."
"There are two main perils when it comes to writing from personal experience: what it will do to your work, and what it will do to your life." —Leslie Jamison via Is It O.K. to Mine Real Relationships for Literary Material? - NYTimes.com
I just finished Leslie’s novel The Gin Closet and highly recommend it, in addition, of course, to her BEST-SELLING (!) essay collection The Gin Closet.
And, of course, I should mention Leslie will be here on May 19 for our Graywolf Press birthday party! More info.
"This is advice that I am borrowing from Nao Bustamante, which is that you are not responsible for other people’s experience of your work. Even if it’s memoir. If they perceive it in a way you didn’t intend, that’s not on you. You also can’t do anything to change it."
"A good critic is trying to tell you what she has learned about herself from the reading of a particular piece of literature. A bad reviewer is often trying to tell you how smart he is by declaring whether or not he liked a particular book."
Kevin Guilfoile in the commentary on our first day of judgment at The Morning News Tournament of Books - Presented by Field Notes
Join us for a ToB celebration here on March 24!
"Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine, but once in a while, as I eat a burrito and watch an old samurai film, I wonder how that other, more glamorous writer, David-san, the Second-Rate Novelist, is doing over there, where it’s already tomorrow."
David Gordon is Big in Japan - NYTimes.com
And David Gordon will be here on February 10! Mark your calendar, details coming soon.
"As a man things are as they should or shouldn’t be. As a man you know who is right and who is wrong. You have to make decisions and enforce them. As a writer you should not judge. You should understand."
"I have gotten into baseball recently, and whenever I have trouble writing, I think about the pace of baseball. It’s slow. You strike out a lot, even if you’re great. It’s mostly individual, but when you have to work together, it must be perfect. My desktop picture is of the Red Sox during the World Series. They aren’t winning; they’re just grinding out another play. This, for me, is very helpful to have in my mind while writing."