Rules, Tips, and Commandments

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
  • 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
  • Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process
    Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process
    Penguin Books
  • 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
  • What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
    What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
    by Anne Bernays, Pamela Painter
  • Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
    Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
    by Scott Mccloud
  • 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 Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
    by Christopher Vogler
  • The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    by Janet Sternberg
  • 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: Writers On How They Think And Work
    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
    by Marie Arana
  • The Writing Life
    The Writing Life
    by Annie Dillard
  • 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
  • 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

 

ATW INTERVIEW

Tuesday
Mar192019

Kelley Armstrong

How did you become a writer?

I've been writing since childhood.  I was an early reader and very quickly wanted to start writing my own stories. In my twenties I started working on novels, and would sporadically send out query letters and sample chapters, but never got anything more than a form letter rejection. So I gave up and concentrated on improving. In 1999, I sold Bitten, which became my first published novel, but wasn’t my first novel.

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

I've been a voracious reader all my life, and I'm sure every novel influenced me in some way, but the biggest conscious influences were Stephen King and Anne Rice. From King, I learned how to make the supernatural seem natural, and from Rice came the idea of making the "monster" the protagonist.

When and where do you write? 

I can write anywhere—I’ve learned to do that—but most of my work is done in a cabin at the back of our property. Complete quiet, no cell phone or internet to disturb or distract me. I do my best writing in the morning. Afternoons aren’t bad, but evenings are horrible. By seven, my brain is too tired for anything but business work.

What are you working on now? 

I’m editing a standalone thriller. I have one coming out in June (Wherever She Goes) and I’m putting the final touches on a follow-up before I deliver it to my publishers.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

My writer's block is two things.  One: fear. Fear that what I write today won't be as good as what I wrote yesterday or in the last book.  I get over that by reminding myself that nothing I write is cast in stone.  If it’s terrible, there's a nice "delete" button to fix that tomorrow!  The important thing is that I write something that day, or the fear will only get worse. The second reason for my writer's blocks? Not knowing where the story is going. If I don't know what happens next, I'm liable to sit there, lost and panicking, maybe realizing that I've written my story into a corner. That's why I always have an outline--so I always know what happens next.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Sadly, what I remember most is the bad advice, and I got a lot of that—people genuinely trying to be helpful by suggesting changes to my writing that probably worked for them, but led to some serious frustration for me. The best advice, then, would be when someone told me to follow the dictates of my own story and not worry about conforming to anyone else’s rules.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Keep writing. It’s boring advice, but it really is the most important thing. Do it for the love of story-telling, and likelihood of publication will rise exponentially as you perfect your craft.

Kelley Armstrong is the author of the Cainsville modern gothic series and the Rockton crime thrillers. Past works include Otherworld urban fantasy series, the Darkest Powers & Darkness Rising teen paranormal trilogies, the Age of Legends fantasy YA series and the Nadia Stafford crime trilogy. Armstrong lives in Ontario, Canada with her family.

Tuesday
Mar122019

Adam Nemett

How did you become a writer?

I’m lucky. And I’ve worked hard. Luck: I have incredible parents who spoiled me at bookstores and libraries, lauded my bad childhood writing and supported the slightly better stuff that followed in high school, college and grad school. I have them to thank for making my career possible. Work: I did my best not to squander these opportunities and spent 12 years writing and revising my first novel, repeatedly smashing into the gates of the publishing industry until some kind folks with impeccable taste let me through. 

For the past decade I’ve also worked a fulltime job as a nonfiction author/creative lead for a specialty marketing firm, writing history books under tight deadlines. This taught me how to be a working writer and still carve out time for creative indulgences. 

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

My teachers, especially Elden Schneider and Chris Mihavetz in high school; Joyce Carol Oates, Jeffrey Stout and Cornel West in college; Tom Barbash, Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Holly Payne and Leslie Carol Roberts at California College of the Arts MFA Writing program. My agent Noah Ballard and my publisher/editor Olivia Taylor Smith—their ideas and edits make my work infinitely better. Every book, film, conversation and life experience has been influential, but some favorite writers: Margaret Atwood, Clara Bingham, Italo Calvino, Michael Chabon, Mark Danielewski, Samuel Delaney, Don DeLillo, Katherine Dunn, Roxane Gay, Keith Gessen, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sam Lipsyte, Vladimir Nabokov, Barry Nemett, Rebecca Solnit, Donna Tartt, Justin Taylor and Henry David Thoreau. 

When and where do you write? 

I don’t have a schedule. I write nonfiction for a living (typically 9-6, but sometimes not), and write fiction whenever I spot a window. In coffee shops, on trains, middle of the night, on my phone’s Notes app, in a box, with a fox. I have an outdoor writing studio now, which is great, but I don’t need to be there in order to work. I respect writers who are disciplined enough to have a set time and place, but with two kids and a fulltime job I steal minutes wherever/whenever I can. 

What are you working on now? 

My debut novel, WE CAN SAVE US ALL, was published in November by The Unnamed Press. It’s set at Princeton University during the escalating days of climate change, where a bunch of students form an endtimes cult based on superheroes and fueled by psychedelic drugs. I’m still in the marketing/publicity phase, doing events/interviews and writing personal essays, including one about my grandfather(who may have been Batman), another about my father(a working artist and inspiration), and another about my four-year-old son(a magical lunatic). In my mild-mannered dayjob, I’m writing a book with one of the 25 women CEOs currently leading a Fortune 500 company. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Totally paralyzed by this question. I’m going to watch seven hours of New Girl episodes on Netflix and will get back to you…  

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

On crafting scenes: “Enter late, leave early.” (usually attributed to William Goldman). See also, Alfred Hitchcock: “What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.”

On getting published: “Make it a numbers game and prepare to be rejected a lot in search on the one, enthusiastic hell yes. Pick yourself up and keep grinding and do what you do.” (from my supportive cousin, Jason Dressel).

And relatedly, Joyce Carol Oates once told me: “You might just be masochistic enough to become a real writer.” (see below). 

What’s your advice to new writers?

Go get 50 rejections, then keep grinding. Most people can’t deal with rejection, so if you make it through those first 50 you’ve surpassed most of the field, thickened your skin, gotten on the gatekeepers’ radar, and received a ton of useful feedback that’s made you a better writer. Now, march forth. 

Adam Nemett is the author of the debut novel We Can Save Us All (The Unnamed Press) and his work has been published, reviewed and featured in The New York Times Book Review, Salon.com, LA Weekly, The New Yorker, and Washington Post. He is co-founder of the educational nonprofit MIMA Music and serves as creative lead and author for History Factory, where he’s written award-winning nonfiction books and directed global campaigns for Lockheed Martin, Brooks Brothers, 21st Century Fox, Adobe Systems, HarperCollins, New Balance and Pfizer. He lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, with his wife and two kids.

Tuesday
Mar052019

Sue Prideaux

How did you become a writer?

I adored elephants as a child. I suppose I was about seven when I began an elephant newspaper reporting all the goings-on in an imagined herd. I illustrated it, too – a talent that hasn’t survived into adulthood. 

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

I might answer that every book I have ever read has influenced me for better or worse, but you’ll be maddened by such a non-specific answer. Books were my deepest connection in a thoughtful and solitary childhood. Earliest favorites were The Odyssey, the Greek myths and the Nordic sagas. In retrospect, I can see that they were the very best textbooks for a writer-to-be. Nothing better to teach you the technical things like plot, character and vivid economy of style, while at the same time nurturing your own human characteristics of creativity, empathy and imagination.   

When and where do you write? 

Everywhere and all the time, invisibly in my head. Then it’s just a matter of getting it onto paper. That can happen wherever I can find a flat surface to put my laptop. There’s only one constraint: it has to be totally quiet. I can only write in absolute silence. 

What are you working on now? 

Dear old Nietzsche so often comes up with the right word for things. He talks about a fishhook in the brain. Rather a disgusting image, but spot-on for how I feel when the idea for a new book takes hold of me. The fishhook tugs and tugs and won’t leave my brain alone until I start writing and then it tugs me along all through the book. As yet, no fisherman has sunk a new hook into my brain. I think I’m still recovering from Nietzsche, which isn’t surprising. I knew it would be a hugely difficult book to write. He’s vastly controversial of course. Not only that, but in the end he goes mad. Surely the ultimate challenge for a writer. You have be an excellent technician to wriggle under the skin of insanity and write it believably. If you can do that you can probably do anything. No wonder it took me four years and the deepest investigation into my own humanity. Writing about Nietzsche also involved a masterly juggling act in terms of making the philosophy as clear, vivid and exciting to the reader as any cliff-hanging sub-plot. If the reader skips the philosophy, I’ve failed. I felt I had succeeded when the wonderful Sarah Bakewell wrote about the book: “This is what every biography should be like – engrossing, intelligent, moving and often downright funny. Simply a blast!” I’ll take that. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Most mornings. I call it terror.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Most mornings, when my husband says; “Go to your desk.” 

What’s your advice to new writers?

Give it a go. You’ll know if it works. 

Bio: I never do this. Three-headed Cerberus guards the door to my personal life – he’d eat me if I let anyone in.

Tuesday
Feb262019

Brian Kimberling

How did you become a writer?

Partly through a literary arms race with the neighbor girl. If she wrote a poem about a chain link fence I had to write one too; when she wrote a gruesome medical scene I had to follow suit. She’s had 3 novels published now, and I’m on 2. But she’s 6 months older.

Also, everybody in my orbit as a child was a voracious reader. Becoming such myself was probably crucial to developing a penchant for writing later.

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

Carolyn Baugh, neighbor girl and author above. Peter Taylor, Katherine Anne Porter, and Frank O’Connor. Salinger. Much later Tessa Hadley. I’ve been accused of writing with a pointillistic style, whatever that means — I think it comes from revering the compression and economy of the short story above all else. I had to grow up to learn that character and feelings are important too.

When and where do you write? 

Sporadically in the kitchen. This has changed over the years. My first book, Snapper, was written in a garage with a pool table in the southern English countryside. I could watch cows out the window, take a few shots on the pool table, and then go write a paragraph or smoke a cigarette or both. I’m amazed that book got written, let alone quickly and easily, but the truth is that shooting pool alone is pretty boring. My second book, Goulash, took much longer and was written in a variety of dwellings.

What are you working on now? 

A long narrative in 3rd person. May sound vague but both my previous books have been first person faux memoirs. In 3rd I’m enjoying the omniscience and the ability to condescend to my characters. But it’s best not to say much more about it until it’s complete.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No, I don’t think so. I suffer heavily from procrastination and distraction and some other things.  There have been times when I was too stricken by one thing or another to work. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt blocked per se. I am however often unwilling to do the sheer amount of work writing involves — at least the way I do it — false starts and dead ends and starting all over again.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t shine. Don’t seek to shine. Burn. (Richard Mitchell)

What’s your advice to new writers?

Writing is hard work! Don’t forget that or let anyone persuade you otherwise.

Brian Kimberling grew up in southern Indiana and spent several years working in the Czech Republic, Mexico, and Turkey before settling in England. Snapper, his first novel, was published by Pantheon in 2013, and Goulash, his second, by the same imprint in 2019.

Tuesday
Feb192019

Tamara Warren

How did you become a writer?

One word at a time. My mom says I slept with a book instead of a security blanket in my crib. When I was about eight, I told anyone who would listen that I had aspirations to become The New York Times food critic.  When I was in fourth grade, the middle school drama teacher adapted my short story “Detective Tamara and the Case of the Missing Dog” to the seventh grade stage. The byline hooked me. Going forward, it was a matter of persistence and curiosity.

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

The teacher and author Jackson’s Taylor’s writing group changed my writing life. My teachers Daryl Pinckney, Zia Jaffrey, Honor Moore, Susan Bell, and Jonathan Dee made me a better writer. The MFA creative writing program at The New School also prompted me to read a book a week, an excellent habit that I keep up.  One go-to example of a literary influence: I return to The Great Gatsby for a healthy dose of voice, scene and character. Conversations with journalist and author friends Brett Berk, Karen Good, Kierna Mayo, and Ayana Byrd keep me fired up about writing in both buzzy new digital forms that come with the times and the quiet pursuit of satisfying prose. The writers Phil Patton and Warren Brown mentored me on how writing about technical topics, like cars, could be clever and creative.

When and where do you write?

I take a notebook with me everywhere. When my time is more limited and I have a specific goal or deadline, I write in the morning, before I check email and engage in other distractions.

What are you working on now? 

“Winter Skin” a coming-of-age novel set in the post-industrial Detroit music scene in the 1990s, and a series of articles that will be published in 2019. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No, but I have suffered through many days of terrible writing. I try to take walks and read to get back on track when the writing stinks. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Read the work out loud before sending it out.  

What’s your advice to new writers?

The writing brain is a muscle that needs to be trained. Use exercises to warm up when you feel stuck. Read more poetry. Get to know your writing process and develop a routine around it. 

Tamara Warren has written for over 100 publications including The New York Times, Car and Driver, Vox, Automobile, Rolling Stone, AutoWeek, Architectural Digest, Vibe, and Detroit Free Press. She co-hosts the weekly Cheddar Rides show on the Cheddar news network. She is also the former transportation editor and senior reporter at The Verge. Tamara is the founder of Le Car, an editorial app based on automotive journalism. Her essays have appeared in Definition: The Art & Design of Hip Hop (Harper Collins) and Luxury: History, Culture, Consumption (Bloomsbury.)  She has appeared as a guest on ABC World News Tonight, CBS, CNBC, and The History Channel. She was raised in Detroit, Michigan and lives in Brooklyn, New York.