Category Archives: Interviews

The Mill River Recluse

This weekend I’m reading Darcie Chan’s THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE.

On my iPad.

And you know I don’t like reading on my iPad.

But I came across this article about Ms. Chan and her book and I was hooked.  After years of trying, unsuccessfully, to get her first novel into the mainstream world of publishing, she’s now sold 400,000 self-published copies.  In today’s New York Times Book Review, THE MILL RIVER RECLUSE is #23 on their e-book best sellers list.

iPad reading or not, I’m enjoying this story a great deal.  Click on the book’s cover above to get your copy.  I promise it will be worth every penny of your 99 cents, and then some.

Click here for Darcie Chan’s website.  You can find her RedRoom interview here.



Shhhh.  This blog is still on holiday, but I have to thank those of you who gathered up to send me this.

God knows I love fountain pens, and if you could feel this one — this one! — in your hand and see the ink on the page …. pure writerly pleasure, that’s what it is.  My scribbles don’t look so scribbly.  Y’all are spoiling me.


I’ve always felt my real teachers are other writers (all of you included), and I spent Friday and Satruday with a couple of favorites:  Joan Didion and Mary Karr.

Since I just read Didion’s BLUE NIGHTS, I watched her latest Charlie Rose interview.  I also fired up her clip with Charlie from 15 years ago, in 1996.  Watching the 2 back-to-back taught me much … and broke my heart.  If you’re feeling your inner student, you can find her master class here, along with a montage of other Writers On Writing.

If you’re working on a memoir and feeling sassy, or even if you just need to shore up your courage (and who doesn’t?), here’s the Mary Karr interview.

The two lines I needed to hear most today?

1.  After saying she threw away the first 2,000 pages (two thousand!) of her last memoir, LIT, the interviewer asked her why.  Her simple answer:  It was boring!

2.  Her advice to newer writers:  Never show your work to anyone unit you think it’s finished.

And now … I’m off to work toward FTF.


* Comments for this post have been turned off.  Enjoy the rest of 2011.

Breaking It Down

From PaperLanternLane

One thing I miss about school is sitting around the table with a group of readers and taking a story — usually a short story — and breaking it down to see how it works.

Today I came across this Podcast at The New Yorker:  it’s my favorite writing teacher, ZZ Packer, reading “Paper Lantern” and then talking with Deborah Treisman about the mechanics.  Here’s the audio link:  Paper Lantern by Stuart Dybek.  If there’s anything that helps me figure out my own writing, it’s seeing how someone else pulls it off.  I started out enjoying the story, ZZ’s voice, and her great big laugh, but ended up with the perfect writing prompt for today.


P.S.  We’ve been talking about the importance of libraries lately.  How about this Dybek quote: “The public library is where place and possibility meet.”  My 10 year old self would have agreed.

Bad Writing. The Movie.

There is a documentary called BAD WRITING.

Did you know this?

Where has this film been and who’s been hiding it from me?

You can buy the film or rent it.  I bought it for $9.99 on iTunes and have watched it.  Twice.  Today.  Cheaper than 2 trips to Starbucks.


Disclaimer:  A few of my biggest writer crushes appear in this movie: Margaret Atwood, David Sedaris, Nick Flynn, and Lee Gutkind.  (I am honest-to-god swooning as I type their names.)

Favorite line by the writer / filmmaker:  I felt sick, maybe I wasn’t doing as well as I thought, maybe I was still bad, maybe I would never be a good writer, maybe I was wasting my time.

Best reminder:   Anybody who doesn’t write and fail is really not trying very hard.

Most under-appreciated question:  But how do you write and not smoke cigarettes?

And now, in the spirit of this wonderful film, I offer you this week’s very worst of my bad writing:  (As a writing prompt, I was told to think about the sky and the grass.  Please hold your applause until the end.)


She often wondered, where was up and where was down?

Why one blue, the other grass and green,

Green on the low road, blue on the high,

What road was she on?

She often wondered.


He often wondered, where was he going, the same place he’d been?

Why bother with forward

When all he knew was back

Back where he’d come from

The same old road

There, nowhere, again.

He often wondered.


Who wants to share their best bad writing?

The Art of Fielding

As much as I try to avoid the big hype books (until the hype is long dead, at least), I’ve made an exception for the current literary darling.

I first heard of THE ART OF FIELDING when, late on a Friday night, AmyG directed me to an article in the latest Vanity Fair she called “writer porn.”  And jesus people, who among us can pass up writer porn?

AmyG was right.  If you haven’t read this long and detailed piece about how THE ART OF FIELDING came to be, stop reading this post and get ye straight to the magazine and read Keith Gessen’s phenomenal essay.  (in the print magazine only, sorry)  I’ve never read a better, more detailed and intriguing drama about how a book was written, re-written, discovered, agented, edited, negotiated, sold, marketed and, finally, set out into the world.

The writer, Chad Harbach, is also a co-founder and editor of N+1, one of my favorite lit mags.  Here’s an 8 minute review on NPR’s All Things Considered.  Chad wrote this book long-hand; he says he finds writing on the screen paralyzing.  There’s a thought.  He’s got me thinking, this Chad Harbach character, thinking about baseball and expectations and writing and success and MOBY-DICK and tragedy and secrets and long sagas and the art of great story telling.

Who wants to read this with me?  

Summer Vampire

Remember Barnabas Collins?

Some say they hole up and write the most and their best in the winter months, when brooding skies, cold and rain and snow, drive them indoors.  Picture the well-stoked fire, the over-worn sweater, the steaming urns of soup and cups of tea.  What a cozy picture.  But not for me.  I’m like some kind of summer vampire.  The light glows brighter and I’m twisting my shoulders away from sun, hiding indoors during the heat of the day — the air-conditioned library serves me best — emerging in the early evening for a glass (or 3) of chilled white wine and a mental wind-down.

I was never one of those kids who eyed the start of summer.  I didn’t care for that kind of freedom.  I craved the routine of school:  the ringing bells, the expectation of a real lunch, the paper-shuffle-quiet of test taking, the structure of playground games like Tether Ball and Four Square.

As this summer comes on, I’m shuffling paper and getting to work.  And I’ve got Dorothy Allison on the brain.  Last week I watched a short interview where she talks about growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, and writing about the country of her imagination.  You can find it here (Dorothy’s part starts at the 41 minute mark).  In the span of 15 minutes, she says the word “dangerous” 10 times … as in: it was dangerous for her to write about her home, her family, her real life.  The country of her imagination was a place where “men were dangerous animals roaming the earth.”  Dorothy wrote her first story when she was 9 yrs old.  And she burned it.  Then she continued to burn every single thing she wrote — feeling that her truths were just too dangerous to be out in the world — until she was 24 yrs old.

Summer’s here.  I promise not to burn anything.  I’m remembering Dark Shadows.  And I’ve got Dorothy, brave Dorothy, on the brain.  What’s got you thinking these days?

Kathryn Harrison Interview

I sent this to a couple of you separately, but I’ve watched it again and thought I should post it.  It’s interesting to see how uncomfortable Charlie Rose is, especially at the start, like he’s not quite sure how/what he should ask.  And Kathryn Harrison answers every question — tough questions — with such honesty and grace.  What an inspiration.

Click here for the link:  Kathryn Harrison

I also ordered the new release of THE KISS and read it — are you sitting down — on my iPad.  I’m inching my way into the 21st century.  Jane Smiley’s afterword is worth the read.  And of course I couldn’t help but page through the book (electronically).  Jesus, this book.  There’s still never been anything quite like it.