Dani Shapiro

How did you become a writer?

I didn’t know it was possible to be a writer, when I was growing up. I loved to read, and I wrote constantly, but the idea that I could actually become the person who wrote the books – simply never occurred to me. It wasn’t until I went to college at Sarah Lawrence that I first met “real” writers who taught there. Grace Paley was a teacher and mentor of mine. It wasn’t a smooth road. I dropped out of college after a few years, knocked around for a while, made a mess of my life, and when I went back to school it seemed I had something to write about. (I don’t recommend this as a career path.) I got my MFA, and my graduate thesis became my first published novel. 

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

Virginia Woolf; Anne Truitt; Elizabeth Hardwick; Grace Paley.

When and where do you write? 

Mornings are best. I write either at home in my small office, or in a local cafe.  

What are you working on now? 

I’ve just finished a new book, Hourglass, which will be published by Knopf in April. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

John Gregory Dunne once described what we call writer’s block as a “failure of nerve.” I try to keep that in mind because it de-mystifies it, and makes it possible for me to push past my resistance. It’s all about courage — which involves feeling the fear and doing it anyway. 

What’s your advice to new writers?  

Read. Walk. Don’t succumb to impatience. Play the long game. 

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, The New York Times Book Review, the op-ed pages of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and has been broadcast on This American Life. Dani was recently Oprah Winfrey’s guest on Super Soul Sunday. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, The New School and Wesleyan University; she is co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. A contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler, Dani lives with her family in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Her next book, Hourglass, will be published by Knopf in the spring of 2017.