Julie Langsdorf

How did you become a writer?

I was an incessant reader as a child, and started writing as soon as I learned how to string words into stories. I plotted out a few novels in elementary school, and wrote short stories during my teenage years. When I graduated from college, I worked as a features writer for magazines and newspapers for my day job, and wrote fiction after hours. I’ve tried to give it up a few times, but it’s like any addiction…

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

I’m a huge fan of, in no particular order: Evan S. Connell, Elizabeth Stout, Richard Yates, Tom Perrotta, Kate Atkinson, Jess Walter, Alice McDermott and Meg Wolitzer among countless others.

When and where do you write?

I am a morning writer. I work at an antique, Mission style desk in front of French doors with a view of a beautiful tree and the gorgeous old coop across the street. I often get distracted by the birds on the branches--cardinals, blue jays, or, the other day, a dove who sat on the railing about two feet away from me and stared at me till I got back to work.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new comedy set in another fictional Maryland town. This novel, like White Elephant, is told from multiple perspectives and deals with a topical issue.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Yes. Even thinking the words “writers block” makes me tremble. I think it’s just a form of anxiety. Every time, I panic that I’ll never write again, but it always passes. Sometimes I need to stay at my desk and ride it out, but other times I need to step away from the computer for a while, to just live my life, experience all the world has to offer, and to trust that the words and ideas will flow again. 

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

Well, I didn’t get this advice directly from the source, but I think Henry James had it right when he said: “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.” It’s important to pay attention to the texture of life, to notice the particulars, to find the humor and poignancy in the world around you if you hope to get it right on the page.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Put your phone away.

Julie Langsdorf’s debut novel, White Elephant, was published by Ecco in March.