Posts Tagged ‘writing’
December 6, 2013 | by David L. Ulin
There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. —Red Smith
I wrote my first first book over the course of three months, from July 23 to October 23, 1979. Four weeks in, I turned eighteen. This was a novel, and not the first I’d attempted; in fifth grade, I had written forty pages of a saga called Gangwar in Chicago, inspired by The Godfather and taking place in a city where I’d never been. Setting the story in Chicago meant scouring the map in World Book for locations: Canal Street, I recall, was one. I chose it because I knew Canal Street in New York, and it seemed the sort of landscape in which a gang war could take place. To this day, I have never seen Chicago’s Canal Street, despite the twenty years I spent visiting my wife’s family in a suburb on the North Shore.
The other novel, the one I finished, was motivated almost entirely by a specific case of envy—of my friend Fred, who had spent the same summer working on a novel of his own. Fred and I were high school writing buddies, confiding to each other, as we wandered the grounds of our New England boarding school, that we both wanted to win the Nobel Prize. Now, he’d written a campus novel, tracing his difficulties as a one-year senior, parsing the school’s social hierarchy in a way that seemed enlightening and true. Fred was more serious, more focused; he not only knew what symbolism was but also how to use it. It made sense that he would write a novel, and that it would be good. A year later, he would write another one, and then we lost track of each other, until six or seven years later, when his short stories started to appear in magazines. Read More »
November 19, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“There’s no method. There’s no formula. If you really proceed a sentence at a time, if you pay attention to the sentence you just wrote and look to it for the clue for what to do to the next sentence, you can inch your way along to what may be a story. This wouldn’t have occurred to me starting out, for example, when I thought you wrote one sentence, then just looked out to the world trying to snag the next one. That’s not how it works. You look back at what you gave yourself to work with. Sharon Olds said something beautiful about sometimes thinking of her poems as instructions for how to put the world back together if it were destroyed.” —Amy Hempel, the Art of Fiction No. 176
October 14, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
October 3, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
“I can’t remember when I was not writing. I was taught to read by my grandmother. Central to her method was a tale of unnatural love called ‘The Duck and the Kangaroo.’ Then, because my grandfather, Senator Gore, was blind, I was required early on to read grown-up books to him, mostly constitutional law and, of course, the Congressional Record. The later continence of my style is a miracle, considering those years of piping the additional remarks of Mr. Borah of Idaho.” —Gore Vidal, the Art of Fiction No. 50
September 13, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
Earlier this week, we hosted an AMA on Reddit: all the editors clustered around Lorin’s desk, while Stephen typed, and we addressed as many queries as we could. It was fun, and exhausting, and we were delighted and impressed with the caliber of questions! Since there were a number of points that came up repeatedly, below, we are reprinting some of the most frequently-asked questions from that session.
Do you believe that the popularity of creative writing degree programs, both graduate and undergraduate, is impacting contemporary literature positively or negatively? … As a student and writer currently debating whether to pursue the MFA route, or go on to graduate school in my chosen field of study, I would be extremely interested in your views on the matter.
The problem with creative-writing programs is not the quality of instruction; it’s the enforced isolation with other people who are thinking, eating, and breathing the same things you are. That said, much can be learned from a good teacher, or by simply spending those two years alone with a whole lot of books.
As a publishing/journalism industry hopeful, I’m curious about your career trajectories. How did you get where you are now? What were your entry-level jobs?
“Clare and I are both former (Paris Review) interns. That was our entry-level job.” —Stephen
“My first job? I was an editorial assistant at a publishing house.” —Sadie
“I was a part-time secretary at Publishers Weekly.” —Lorin
“This is my entry-level job.” —Hailey
How does the public’s taste in poetry differ now than it twenty years ago? The Paris Review had an article recently stating that there are now “an insufficiency of readers but too many people trying to get published”—how is The Paris Review combating this? Lastly, what are your pet peeves in submissions you get? For example, I work at a journal as well and my “pet peeve” is poems about pieces of obscure artwork that cannot stand alone.
The best way to interest people in reading is to publish great writing. At least, that’s our strategy.
Fashions change in poetry as in any other artistic endeavor; if there’s one generalization to be made, it’s that it’s harder to generalize now about truly gifted poets.
Pet peeves: stories about hunting, stories about MFA programs (though we’ve published our share), stories that start with someone closing a car door. Read More »