Articles and Essays
Interviews
Blogs

Recommended Books
  • A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
    A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
    by Noah Lukeman
  • Adventures in the Screen Trade
    Adventures in the Screen Trade
    by William Goldman
  • APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
    APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
    by Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Welch
  • A Room of One's Own
    A Room of One's Own
    by Virginia Woolf
  • The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts
    The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts
    by David Lodge
  • The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
    The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
    by John Gardner
  • The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
    The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
    by Phillip Lopate
  • The Associated Press Stylebook 2009 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law)
    The Associated Press Stylebook 2009 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law)
    Basic Books
  • Aspects of the Novel
    Aspects of the Novel
    by E.M. Forster
  • Becoming a Writer
    Becoming a Writer
    by Dorothea Brande
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
    by Anne Lamott
  • Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas
    Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas
    Three Rivers Press
  • Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Seventeenth Edition
    Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Seventeenth Edition
    by John Ayto
  • The Careful Writer
    The Careful Writer
    by Theodore M. Bernstein
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
    The Chicago Manual of Style
    University Of Chicago Press
  • The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
    The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
    by Amy Einsohn
  • The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
    The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
    by Ralph Keyes
  • The Craft of Fiction
    The Craft of Fiction
    by Percy Lubbock
  • The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists
    The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists
    by Sarah Cypher
  • Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do
    Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do
    Grove Press
  • The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
    The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
    by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White
  • Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
    Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
    by Lawrence Grobel
  • Fiction Writer's Handbook
    Fiction Writer's Handbook
    by Hallie Burnett, Whit Burnett
  • Fiction Writer's Workshop
    Fiction Writer's Workshop
    by Josip Novakovich
  • Flaubert's Parrot
    Flaubert's Parrot
    by Julian Barnes
  • Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction
    Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction
    by James B. Stewart
  • The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
    The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
    by Betsy Lerner
  • For Writers Only
    For Writers Only
    by Sophy Burnham
  • William Goldman: Four Screenplays with Essays
    William Goldman: Four Screenplays with Essays
    by William Goldman
  • Fowler's Modern English Usage
    Fowler's Modern English Usage
    by the late R. W. Burchfield
  • The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard
    The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard
    by Norrie Epstein
  • A Glossary of Literary Terms
    A Glossary of Literary Terms
    by M.H. Abrams, Geoffrey Harpham
  • How Fiction Works
    How Fiction Works
    by James Wood
  • How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar
    How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar
    by William Safire
  • How to Get Happily Published
    How to Get Happily Published
    by Judith Appelbaum
  • How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Writing)
    How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Writing)
    by Orson Scott Card
  • How To Write Short Stories: With Samples
    How To Write Short Stories: With Samples
    by Ring Lardner
  • If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
    If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
    by Brenda Ueland
  • Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir
    Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir
    Mariner Books
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Harvest Book)
    Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Harvest Book)
    by George Orwell
  • Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them
    Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them
    by Bill Walsh
  • Letters to a Young Poet: Translated and with a Foreword By Stephen Mitchell
    Letters to a Young Poet: Translated and with a Foreword By Stephen Mitchell
    by Ranier Maria Rilke
  • Making a Good Script Great
    Making a Good Script Great
    by Linda Seger
  • Making a Literary Life
    Making a Literary Life
    by Carolyn See
  • Master Class: Scenes from a Fiction Workshop
    Master Class: Scenes from a Fiction Workshop
    by Paul West
  • Metaphors We Live By
    Metaphors We Live By
    by George Lakoff, Mark Johnson
  • The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
    The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
    by Alice Weaver Flaherty
  • Henry Miller on Writing (New Directions Paperbook)
    Henry Miller on Writing (New Directions Paperbook)
    by Henry Miller
  • Movie Speak: How to Talk Like You Belong on a Movie Set
    Movie Speak: How to Talk Like You Belong on a Movie Set
    by Tony Bill
  • Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form
    Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form
    by Madison Smartt Bell
  • New Grub Street (Broadview Editions)
    New Grub Street (Broadview Editions)
    by George Gissing
  • Nonconformity
    Nonconformity
    by Nelson Algren
  • On Becoming a Novelist
    On Becoming a Novelist
    by John Gardner
  • One Writer's Beginnings (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)
    One Writer's Beginnings (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)
    by Eudora Welty
  • On Writing Short Stories
    On Writing Short Stories
    Oxford University Press, USA
  • On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
    On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
    by Stephen King
  • On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    by William Zinsser
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions (Oxford Paperback Reference)
    The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions (Oxford Paperback Reference)
    Oxford University Press, USA
  • Poetic Meter and Poetic Form
    Poetic Meter and Poetic Form
    by Paul Fussell
  • The Paris Review Interviews, Vols. 1-4
    The Paris Review Interviews, Vols. 1-4
    by The Paris Review
  • Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.)
    Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.)
    by Francine Prose
  • The Rhetoric of Fiction
    The Rhetoric of Fiction
    by Wayne C. Booth
  • The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
    The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
    by Julia Cameron
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
    Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
    by Renni Browne, Dave King
  • Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, 16th Edition: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Self Publishing Manual)
    Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, 16th Edition: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Self Publishing Manual)
    by Dan Poynter
  • Simple & Direct
    Simple & Direct
    by Jacques Barzun
  • Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences
    Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences
    by Kitty Burns Florey
  • The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative
    The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative
    by Vivian Gornick
  • The Sound on the Page: Great Writers Talk about Style and Voice in Writing
    The Sound on the Page: Great Writers Talk about Style and Voice in Writing
    by Ben Yagoda
  • Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting
    Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting
    by Robert Mckee
  • Stylish Academic Writing
    Stylish Academic Writing
    by Helen Sword
  • Successful Television Writing
    Successful Television Writing
    by Lee Goldberg, William Rabkin
  • The Summing Up
    The Summing Up
    by W. Somerset Maugham
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
    13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
    by Jane Smiley
  • Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories
    Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories
    by Peter Hanson, Paul Robert Herman
  • To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
    To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
    by Phillip Lopate
  • Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
    Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
    by Scott Mccloud
  • What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
    What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
    by Anne Bernays, Pamela Painter
  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
    The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
    by Steven Pressfield
  • Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
    Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
    Plume
  • Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews
    Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews
    Modern Library
  • The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to): Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry
    The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to): Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry
    by Brooke A. Wharton
  • Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic's Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers
    Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic's Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers
    by Ambrose Bierce, Jan Freeman
  • The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    Modern Library
  • The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    by Janet Sternberg
  • The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
    by Christopher Vogler
  • The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook For The Working Writer, Third Edition
    The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook For The Working Writer, Third Edition
    by Brad Bunnin, Peter Beren
  • A Writer's Reality
    A Writer's Reality
    by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write
    A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write
    by Kenneth Atchity
  • Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
    Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
    by William Zinsser
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Paperback)
    Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Paperback)
    by Natalie Goldberg (Author)
  • Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
    Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
    by L. Rust Hills
  • Writing for Your Life
    Writing for Your Life
    by Deena Metzger
  • The Writing Life
    The Writing Life
    by Annie Dillard
  • The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
    by Marie Arana
  • The Writing of Fiction
    The Writing of Fiction
    by Edith Wharton
  • Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
    Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
    by Lawrence Block
  • Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    by Bonnie Friedman
  • You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
    You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
    by Regina Weinreich, Jack Kerouac
  • Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    by Ray Bradbury

 

ATW INTERVIEW

Tuesday
Apr212015

Eric Paul Shaffer

How did you become a writer?

First, I became a reader, and other than writing every day, reading is the most crucial part of being a writer: always be a reader. I learned to read by following my grandmother's finger from word to word as she read my favorite books to me when I was a child. The magic of the moment when I realized that the word she said corresponded with the word printed on the page is still vivid. The combination of words and pictures sunk deep, and some time later, I realized I wanted to provide the same fun and wonder to others, so I began writing.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Anybody as old as I am has thousands of influences, but I can list a few. In poetry, Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams, Robinson Jeffers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti (really the first to electrify me with a poem), William Stafford, Naomi Shihab Nye, Diane diPrima, Jim Harrison, Ted Kooser, Dorianne Laux, damn near every one of the Metaphysical Poets, Gary Snyder, and Lew Welch (by far the poet I most admire, mainly for his fierce work and for his ferocious devotion to his craft).

In fiction, influences include Richard Brautigan, Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Italo Calvino, Jorge Luis Borges, Lee Child, Robert Parker, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, Jack Kerouac, J.K. Rowling, and J.R.R. Tolkien, and this list includes only those whose works I re-read for the sheer joy of the story and the sentences.

In non-fiction, influences include Annie Dillard, Terry Tempest Williams, Aldo Leopold, Loren Eiseley, John Muir, and, of course, the greatest of all, Henry David Thoreau.

When and where do you write?

I write early in the morning--before I do anything else--for an hour starting sometime between 5:00 and 9:00, depending on the day of the week and my work schedule. I wind up my Lux Minute Minder to 60, and I put an hour to work for the work. From where I sit, I have a view of carved green mountains, palms, pines, and papaya trees through windows on three sides, and I use the view to trip over a topic. Once I start, I hear neither wind chimes, barking dogs, or rumbling engines, and though songs from a few birds can break my concentration on occasion, the ticking of my Lux Minute Minder brings me back to the work.

What are you working on now?

Concerning composition, I wish could be specific. I write frantically from the moment the Minute Minder starts ticking. Usually, I get a poem; sometimes, I get a piece of a story; occasionally, I get a bit of non-fiction. Often, whatever I get requires returning to that piece on subsequent days to complete a draft. About half the time, I write but get nothing useful; that gets tossed. The drafts of the week are reviewed on Saturday, often revised and assembled into something interesting.

Concerning poems, I work on submissions every Saturday. Last year, I published my four hundredth poem, the result of persistence, close reading of magazines, and careful attention to choosing venues for my work.

Concerning poetry manuscripts, I have two manuscripts of poetry circulating, A Million-Dollar Bill and Even Further West (focused especially on experiences in the islands).

Have you ever suffered from writer's block?

Tough question: I've had long patches in my life when I wasn't writing, but I wasn't interested in writing then either. I've also had long patches where I wrote nothing worth keeping. I'm in one now. I don't really think of those as writer's block. On the other hand, I've tried to write about some topics and events with no success; the words flowed fitfully or fine, but yuck, I couldn't focus on the subject at hand. I can't say I've ever sat down for a regular writing session and not written, but I am fairly lucky in that I tend not to expect much, and I'm willing to toss trash when I write some, so I usually get more useful material than I anticipated. I don't fear failure (much), so I'm willing to try nearly anything in writing. Of course, the best part is that I get to dispose of my failures without showing them to readers. My friend James nicknamed me Reckless, and in composition, I try to live up that name.

What's your advice to new writers?

Read. Read. Read. Fear no influences. Read so much that your influences flow together and merge with each other and your words so thoroughly that your voice emerges strong and clear, tinted and tempered with the literary conversation of all of the great writers you've read. Then, read more. If you can manage humility, do. If not, good luck.

Eric Paul Shaffer is author of five books of poetry, including Lāhaina Noon; Living at the Monastery, Working in the Kitchen; and Portable Planet. More than 400 of his poems have appeared in more than 250 local and national reviews as well as reviews in Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland, and Wales. Shaffer received the 2002 Elliot Cades Award for Literature, a 2006 Ka Palapala Po'okela Book Award for Lāhaina Noon, and the 2009 James M. Vaughan Award for Poetry. His first novel Burn & Learn, or Memoirs of the Cenozoic Era was published in 2009. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Honolulu Community College. Shaffer will join the poetry faculty at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference in Wyoming from June 25-27, 2015.

Tuesday
Apr142015

Robin Black

How did you become a writer?

I took a super circuitous route. Growing up, I wanted to be an actress and a singer, ambitions that I dropped the second I arrived at Sarah Lawrence and saw the theater kids there. They were so sophisticated, so cool, I nearly died of social anxiety, and gave up before I began. (My decision-making skills are not always the best.) In my sophomore year, I took a fiction writing class with Allan Gurganus and very quickly became convinced that this was the new path for me – but then, again, various anxieties intervened, and I took a nearly twenty year detour during which time I married, divorced, remarried, had three kids, lost two pregnancies in emotionally devastating ways, and spent a lot of time mad at myself for letting go of one dream after another.

In May, 2001, when I was thirty-nine, my father died. My relationship with him was complicated (like the sky is big) and I can’t help but make the connection that I started to write three weeks after his death – and have never looked back. I think in the end that though he certainly wasn’t consciously doing this, there were ways in which he inhibited me and contributed to a set of pretty well-developed neuroses that not only kept me from writing, but kept me from making much of an effort at any kind of professional success.

Fall 2001, I entered The Rittenhouse Writers group in Philadelphia, and July 2003, I entered the Warren Wilson MFA Program. I’m not a bit convinced that everyone needs an MFA, but in addition what I learned there, I also wanted that professional stamp, in part just to believe in myself.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Allan Gurganus and Steven Schwartz are without question the teachers who have had the greatest influence on me. In both cases what I would say is that they have an incredible combination of knowledge, talent, compassion, humor, and a sense of responsibility to their students. Other teachers of mine also have had those characteristics, but if you're lucky some matches “take” and those two have for me.

Authors who have influenced me include Virginia Woolf (of course!), Henry James, George Eliot. Many, many short story writers, notably A.S. Byatt and  Mavis Gallant. And then, in some weird way, the greatest influence on my work may be a writer about whom no one ever speaks, due for a revival: Margery Sharp, whose genius novel Britannia Mews may well be the book I have read most in my life. I am trying to be influenced by Jane Gardam because I want to write just like her when I grow up, but influences are funny things. They tend to sneak in, while you’re looking the other way - while anything forced ends up merely as poor imitation. 

When and where do you write? 

All the time and all over the house. My kids are grown, and writing – which includes magazine work and reviews, and occasional teaching too – is my full-time job. I am incredibly fortunate that way. So I have a lot of time in which I can do it. And I am a wanderer. Have laptop, will sit in different room. I am currently, though, trying to make a study for myself – we will see if I stay in it.

What are you working on now? 

I am working very hard at revising, reshaping and adding to a collection of essays that will be out from Engine Books in April 2016. It’s called Crash Course, 52 Essays From Where Writing and Life Collide – and for once I actually think my title explains exactly what the book is.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?  

That would be 1982-2001.

And then, post 2001, it depends how you define it. There are periods when I “can’t” write – but I think those are probably appropriate and necessary breaks. There were definitely periods when I couldn’t get my novel going, but I wasn’t blocked as a writer, just on that project. Maybe it’s because I am willing to shift genres constantly or maybe it’s because I’m content throwing away nine tenths of what I write, but I never actually stop writing. It may be also that after losing twenty years, I am just smart enough to know I have no time to waste.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Don’t confuse help with unkindness. Don’t buy into the bullshit view of writing that we all have to learn to “take it” in order get better and that anything other than scathing criticism is coddling. Don’t buy it as a reader or as a student. Criticism is good and necessary, but by no means improved by insults or one-upmanship. Kindness counts. Similarly though don’t take all criticism as an insult. Be discerning.

Don’t try to make other people’s work into what you want to write and run like hell form people who do that to you.

Forgive yourself for jealousy and never act on it – except maybe to protect yourself by shutting down Facebook the day the NEA’s are announced and such private, harmless acts as that.

Pay more attention to the people who like your work than to those who don’t. Interesting fact: Once you reach a certain point in your career, you will ONLY work with people who like your work, because the ones who don’t won’t accept it or buy it or commission it. Pay attention to the negative responses, just to learn, but your people, your readers, are the ones who are excited when they read your stuff. Critical, maybe, but excited, for sure.

Robin Black is the prize-winning author of the story collection If I loved you, I would tell you this; the novel Life Drawing (newly in paperback, April 2015); and the forthcoming book Crash Course, 52 Essays from where Writing and Life Collide - which Engine Books is publishing and will be launching at the AWP Conference, April 2016. Her short work has appeared in many publications including The New York Times Magazine, The Chicago Tribune, One Story, O. Magazine, and Conde Nast Traveler, UK. She lives with her family in Philadelphia.

Tuesday
Apr072015

Catherine McKenzie

How did you become a writer?

I’ve always been a writer — I wrote poetry from an early age. I started writing novels kind of by accident. I had an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone, but I didn’t know what it was. So I sat down and started writing. Six months later, I had something resembling a novel, but I knew I could do better. So I put it in a drawer and wrote another one. That book eventually sold and became Arranged.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

I'm an avid reader - have been all my life. I grew up reading detective fiction - Rex Stout, PD James, Dick Francis and Agatha Christie. I had a couple of great English teachers in high school who instilled some rigour in my writing. I love Jane Austen and Nick Hornby, and I think from the beginning, I was trying to write something that was in that space — character driven stories.

When and where do you write? 

I write anywhere really, but often in front of the TV - it helps me to have something distracting me when I write. I most often write on the weekends.

What are you working on now? 

I’ve just turned in my fifth novel, SMOKE which will be releasing on October 20, 2015.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

I wouldn’t say I’ve suffered from writer’s block. Writer’s fatigue sometimes. Idea block for sure.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Read, read, read, read. If you don’t love books, why do you want to write one? And then write. Learn to write whether you’re feeling inspired or not because you’re not always going to feel inspired but you’ll have to write nonetheless.

Bio: A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine's novels, SPIN, ARRANGED, FORGOTTEN and HIDDEN, are all international bestsellers and have been translated into numerous languages. Her most recent release is SPUN - a novella sequel to her first novel, SPIN. HIDDEN was also a #1 Amazon bestseller and a Digital Bookworld bestseller. Her fifth novel, SMOKE, will be published in the US by Lake Union on October 20, 2015. And if you want to know how she has time to do all that, the answer is: robots. Visit her online at www.catherinemckenzie.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/catherinemckenzieauthor, and on Twitter at @cemckenzie1.

Tuesday
Mar312015

Nahid Rachlin

How did you become a writer?

When I was an infant my mother, who already had seven children, gave me to my childless aunt to raise as her own child. Then when I was nine years old my father came to my elementary school in Tehran and forcefully took me back to live with him, my birth mother, and siblings in Ahvaz, a town miles away from Tehran. I was happy being an only child to my loving aunt and it was traumatic to be forced into living with my birth family, I hardly knew. This trauma led me to reading books to find answers to my questions. In turn reading led me to writing. In writing I could give shape to incidents that were painful, seemed meaningless or random, chaotic. I found that even if I wrote about a depressing subject, the process itself made me happy. Writing then became an ingrained habit, a need.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

When I was in high school, I found a bookstore with books by European and American writers in translation. I read almost everything I found in translation—work by Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Hemingway, Balzac. Of course, I also read books by Iranian writers. I probably absorbed some of the techniques used by the writers I read. I can’t say I was influenced by a particular writer.

One of my composition teachers in high school liked the pieces I handed in for assignments. She was unusual in that she believed women should have a voice and not settle for prescribed roles in the male dominated world I grew up in. She was a big influence on me, both in her encouragement of my writing and my development as a more independent person.

When and where do you write?

I try to write three hours in the morning. If appointments stop me from writing in the morning then I write in the afternoon. I like working at home. So I just go to my desk and start writing. 

What are you working on now? 

I am putting together a short story collection, that includes a novella. Also  I am working on a novel.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No, I haven’t had a writer’s block, but in general I write slowly. I usually become interested in a particular character or theme and then it takes me a few revisions before I even know what details in the story would convey what I am trying to develop.  

What’s your advice to new writers?

If you become too self-critical, you may get a writer’s block. It’s best to just put words on the page, until something clicks. Then be prepared to revise until you are satisfied with the outcome of your story or whatever you are writing. It is also important to read a lot. Reading can inspire you and also show you some techniques that you may not already have.

Nahid Rachlin (http://www.nahidrachlin.comwent to Columbia University Writing Program on a Doubleday-Columbia Fellowship and then to Stanford University MFA program on a Stegner Fellowship. Her publications include a memoir, PERSIAN GIRLS (Penguin), four novels, JUMPING OVER FIRE (City Lights), FOREIGNER (W.W. Norton), MARRIED TO A STRANGER (E.P.Dutton-Penguin), THE HEART'S DESIRE (City Lights), and a collection of short stories, VEILS (City Lights). Her individual short stories have appeared in more than fifty magazines and of her stories was adopted by Symphony Space, “Selected Shorts,” and was aired on NPR’s around the country. She has been judge for several fiction awards and competitions, among them, Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction (2015)  sponsored by AWP, Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award sponsored by Poets & Writers. She has taught at Barnard College, Yale University and the New School University.

Tuesday
Mar242015

Ellen Meister

How did you become a writer? A lot of authors have a story about the wonderful teacher who was nurturing, kind and inspirational. This isn't one of those. This is about a mean, arrogant, ice-cold high school English teacher who didn't like me one bit. I handed in a writing assignment that was a scene between two characters, and got it back from him with an A- and the grudging compliment, This is essentially believable dialogue. Even though it was less than enthusiastic, it was enough. Something clicked and I thought, Yes. It really is. And I knew right then that this was The Thing I Could Do. It took me decades to stop procrastinating and get to work, but it was a defining moment.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.). The first writer to inspire me was J.D. Salinger, but it wasn't The Cather in the Rye, it was Nine Stories. His ear for dialogue kicked me right in the solar plexus. Since then, I've tried to glean at least one small nugget from whatever I'm reading. It's something I tell my creating writing students—if you're paying attention, each book has something to teach you.

When and where do you write? Mostly in my home office in the wee hours of the morning. I do my best work before sunrise.

What are you working on now? I'm juggling two embryonic novel ideas, and they're in that delicate stage where I can't quite talk about them. Soon, I hope.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? I don't believe in writer's block. I think that term simply means that you haven't yet decided where your story is going, and expect your muse to materialize overhead and deliver it. Perhaps it works that way for some people, but for most of us, it just takes work. So when I get stuck, I open a blank Word doc and write down all the questions I have about the story and all the possible answers. After a time, the right direction emerges.

What’s your advice to new writers? Impatience is our enemy, especially with the lure of self-publishing offering instant gratification. No matter what route you choose, understand that it takes time to get your book in shape. Even when you think you're done, you're not. Revise and edit, then revise and edit again. Repeat until you go mad. Congratulations, you are a writer!

Ellen Meister is the author of five novels, including DOROTHY PARKER DRANK HERE (Putnam 2015) , FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER (Putnam 2013), THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam  2011) and THE SMART ONE (HarperCollins 2008). Her essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal blog, the Huffington Post, Publishers Weekly, Long Island Woman Magazine, Writer's Digest and more.  Ellen teaches creative writing at Hofstra University Continuing Education, mentors emerging authors, lectures on Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, and does public speaking about her books and other writing-related topics. She runs a popular Dorothy Parker page on Facebook.