Posts Tagged: writing

"I’ve never believed, not for one second, that art is created out of avoiding the world and its various realities."

I’ve never believed, not for one second, that art is created out of avoiding the world and its various realities. If you avoid that, you avoid life, which is your source material, you dishonor all your ghosts in the sunlight, including the person you were when I began this speech, the Columbia boys I knew and loved long ago, the politically oppressed poet who changed a face, and you, dancing with my former self before we part, and you walk proudly into your sunlit hope, ghosts and all.

-Hilton Als gave a dreamer's commencement speech at Columbia—if only every kid got to hear this sort of intense, fervid creative validation!—now [...]


10 Things I Learned From Editing Obituaries for Two Years

I recently wrapped up a two-year gig writing and editing for my university alumni magazine. Class notes and obituaries are the bread-and-butter of alumni magazines, and editing them is often a thankless role. At 10,000+ words, or approximately 250 dead people per issue, a strong stomach—for grief of the emotional and copy-editing varieties—is a necessity. This means obits generally get relegated to the youngest person on staff. Obits are one of the most-read sections of alumni magazines, and editing them is by far the least sexy job. Often it felt like this part of the production process would never end (if you think about it, it doesn’t), and mostly I [...]


"Who among us instantly adores a person we’ve been told we’re sure to love?"

First lines, like first dates, or the first bite of dessert, can be deceptive. As a writer, I distrust them (well: I no longer ‘date’ since I’ve been married 25 years; there are many ways to surprise your husband in print, but this won’t be one of them), and I particularly dislike often-quoted first lines (that shall here go unmentioned) because I’ve been told everyone loves them. Who among us instantly adores a person we’ve been told we’re sure to love?  Ann Beattie wrote about titles, first lines, first impressions at Granta.


Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing: "I Don't Understand How It Happens"

Do you ever see those stories detailing "how people work"—like, here is my perfect desk and my completed to-do list and here is how organized I am, always—and feel utterly perplexed by the general togetherness of the rest of the human race? Or maybe it's just me, but that's why I found this New Yorker sit-down with the writer Jhumpa Lahiri to be refreshingly, honestly vague about it all: Lahiri has no idea how she writes her books.

It's a very mysterious process, at least for me. I still don't understand how I write a story or a book. I don't understand how it happens. I mean, I know [...]


People Trying to Write in Art

(After an unintended hiatus, the Stuff in Art series is back.)

"Something’s not right."



False Dichotomy vs Who Cares

Chad Harbach's new book is here! MFA vs NYC, an elegant, troll-to-fit title for the ages, identifying and reifying the Two Paths for the Writer in our time. But, Harbach's wonderful brain in The Art of Fielding and the likely excellence of every essay in this book (Emily Gould on debt!) notwithstanding, everything about this discussion leaves me cold.

Minus a certain amount of personal neurosis, I should be the exact audience at which MFA vs. NYC is aimed. I am an aspiring novelist interested in the apparatus of any system that produces stability for writers, and I have spent the last year dividing my attention almost 50/50 [...]


Writing or Running? An Inspirational Quote Quiz

1. “It doesn't take very long for most _____ers to realize that if you wait until the day you… feel like _____ing you'll never do it at all.”

2. "If you want to become the best _____er you can be, start now. Don't spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it."

3. “It is not so much that I began to _____, but that I continued.”

4. “It's none of their business that you have to learn how to _____. Let them think you were born that way.”

5. “And why don't you _____? _____! _____ing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, [...]


True Summer

Last summer, I found myself dead broke. I’d had a wild spring, horribly mismanaging my healthy grad school stipend, and came out of the whirlwind with just enough money to make rent until the fall. Following panicked and useless attempts at finding a summer job, I resigned myself to scraping by on credit cards (and, shamefully, borrowing money from my parents). All this made me feel terribly dumb (I was twenty-five, for chrissakes) and a little scared. But! I was newly in love, and that, along with all that impoverished time on my hands, made it a magical, if twisted, summer. I wandered through the streets, lovesick and feeling vaguely [...]


Talking to Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer, "Story Architects" for Young Adult Literature

Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer are the co-founders of Paper Lantern Lit, a boutique YA book studio they call a "literary incubator." 

Let me see if I've got the concept of literary incubation right? You guys are the "architects," so you come up with YA concepts you think will do well, then match the concepts with writers; the writers finish a manuscript, you sell the manuscript to a publishing house, the writers get a cut. This is a similar model to book packagers like Alloy (Gossip Girl, etc): what are the differences?

LH: We really admire Alloy’s model and yes, there are definitely some similarities in [...]


We're All Jerks

The other day, a friend posted Rielle Hunter’s HuffPology to the world on my Facebook page. I saw that she’d written a book, and I was like, “Ugh, whoa, well, she must need money.” And I thought about what it would be like to be her—how she gets up every day and does whatever she does, another person trying to live their life, trying to decide what to eat, how to feed her kid.

Five years ago, I read that Rielle Hunter was having an affair with John Edwards. I had met Hunter several times—we lived in the same place at different times and crossed each other’s paths [...]