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Tag Archives: on writing

Waking Up At 5 A.M. Every Day To Become A Writer

Judith Ortiz Cofer, 1994 winner for fiction, shares her advice on becoming a writer in this quick clip. She stresses the importance of taking your craft seriously and making room for your goals in your life:  "You have to imagine yourself as an artist before you can become an artist. And the way that I did it, was getting up at 5 in the morning and writing for two hours before everyone else woke up. You have to allocate a place and time to become an artist. Just like if you want to be the best basketball player who ever existed. You can't sit in a room and say, 'I am going to be the greatest.' You have to get out to the court and practice and practice. A musician has to practice. A singer has to sing. A writer has to write."  Watch the entire video above and get inspired!  Read More →

Junot Diaz: “I Have Three Storage Units. All Books.”

Junot DíazDo you have to be a voracious reader to be a splendid writer? Some might argue that consuming mass quantities of the written word is the only way to a successful career as a master of it.  In his 16-year career as a novelist, Junot Diaz has only written two novels and one collection of short stories. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he confesses why it takes him so long to produce new material and where he gets the inspiration from. He also talks about his "one superpower"—reading.  On coming up with his collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her:   That’s why I never want to do this again. It’s like you spend 16 years chefing in the kitchen, and all that’s left is an amuse-bouche. On his one "superpower": I read a book a week, man. And I... Read More →

For Writers, Is What You Do Art Or Commerce?

Russell Banks When it comes to the writer's life, sometimes you have to wonder how much the audience's expectations play in to the production of a book. Do writers worry that their stories won't connect, that this book won't be as successful as previous works, or do they approach each book from a space of clarity, with their only concerns on whether or not they'll be able to finish it? In the video above, 1999 winner Russell Banks talks with PBS' Evan Smith about why he writes and whether he writes for arts' sake or for commerce. In his latest book, Lost Memory of Skin, Banks makes his main protagonist a paroled sex offender, someone who, Banks admits might not be the most sympathetic or intriguing of characters. Read More →

Colson Whitehead Teaches You How To Write – Grab A Pen And Take Notes

Colson WhiteheadWe love it. We absolutely love it. When we read Colson Whitehead's "How To Write," we doubled over in laughter. Finally, a writer who gets it and has fun with the process. Writing is a mysterious endeavor. Those who don't write don't quite get what we do or how we do it or why we do it. But it's an exercise in exploration. Every word, every paragraph, every page, every book — it's all exploration. Whitehead doesn't take himself too seriously. He knows the writer's life well. For example, in rule #2 ("Let Your Subject Find You"), his description of a compelling subject will sound...familiar. And funny:  Once your subject finds you, it’s like falling in love. It will be your constant companion. Shadowing you, peeping in your windows, calling you at all hours to leave messages... Read More →

VIDEO: Edwidge Danticat On Whether Art Is A Luxury Or Necessity

2005 Anisfield-Wolf winner Edwidge Danticat visited the Tavis Smiley show on PBS to discuss her latest work, Create Dangerously. She discusses the origins of the book's title, the difference between immigrant artists and American-born artists, and whether art should be considered a luxury or necessity. Read More →

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc: “Stories Are Everywhere”

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc ...If you know where to look.  We enjoy getting writing advice from our winners because they're so impossibly good at telling stories. Whether the story is about a 13-year-old girl winning a spelling bee or a look at three Southerners who tried to reinvent themselves in the unfamiliar North, telling a compelling story is the focus.  2004 nonfiction winner Adrian Nicole LeBlanc knows her way around a good story. She was honored for her 2003 work "Random Family," a look at the decade-long immersion she spent tracing the lives of one Bronx family. Adapted from a presentation she gave at the Conference on Narrative Journalism, here's her technique for finding stories worth writing:  I like to insert myself in situations – identified as a journalist but not necessarily working on a... Read More →

The 5 Best Quotes Ever Uttered By Ernest J. Gaines

We realize the headline is a bit of hyperbole but in researching Mr. Gaines for this week's exploration of his life and works, we realize that he has a tremendous way with words. Not just on the page, but in interviews as well. English rolls off his tongue in a way that to the ear often sounds like poetry, and his fingers create rich worlds without burdening the reader with five-dollar words. We gathered some of his best quotes from interview past so you could see for yourself how he does it:  On writing for the reader:  I write as well as I can and I learned from reading people like Hemingway, and others, that writing less is better. If I can say something in five words instead of seven words, I’ll use five. Sometimes it’s a little difficult for some people to understand it if... Read More →

Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules For Writers (Take #7 To Heart!)

We enjoy a good list just as much as the next person, and even more so when it comes to advice for writers. We're an interesting bunch, full of quirks and idiosyncrasies, and doubts and fears and ambition. We devour information and try to spit out prose. So when we came across this bunch of tips from Zadie Smith, we decided that yes, we needed to share it with you.  From The Guardian:  When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else. When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would. Don't romanticise your "vocation". You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no "writer's lifestyle". All that matters is what you leave on the page. Avoid your weaknesses. But... Read More →

On Writing: Nicole Krauss And The Magic Of Literature

It's always a question of whether the story will come when a writer sits down to begin a work and for Nicole Krauss, it's always a mystery. In an interview with Interview magazine, she talks about her strengths as a writer:  Part of the work of writing a novel is to uncover these symmetries or connections that make it whole, which might not reveal itself at first. I have a very strong sense of architecture in my novels. But, yes, at first it's sometimes like it's like building a doorknob before you have a door, and a door before you have a room. When asked about her writing process for Great House, she admits that this is her favorite part of her job:  On different days I would work on different sections and sometimes I would get really absorbed into one voice and I would... Read More →

VIDEO: How To Write Like Walter Mosley

In this series of videos from BigThink.com, 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Award winner Walter Mosley gives answers to all types of questions: What big ideas have you had lately? What's the biggest misconception about a writer's life? And perhaps a question every writer and aspiring writer wants to know: What is your writing routine? Get the answers to all these and more below:   Read More →
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