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.