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Writers on Writing:
After 30 years as a journalist, John Darnton decided to try his hand at writing a novel. If he wrote 1,000 words a day, he discovered, he'd have a book in a matter of months. But wouldn't it be nice to learn a few tricks of the trade from other writers as well? Thus was born The New York Times's Monday-morning Writers on Writing series. In embarking on the series, says Darnton, he learned that the writers he most wanted to hear from were not necessarily the same ones who most wanted to hear from him. But there couldn't have been too many who turned him down. The 46 columns collected in Writers on Writing are by the likes of Saul Bellow, Mary Gordon, David Mamet, Annie Proulx, Carol Shields, and Paul West. Though many of them have not much more than the occupation "writer" in common, Darnton says that in one way he found them all to be alike: "They wanted to hear, right away, what you thought of their work."
Here, Richard Ford explains why he finds not writing to be a terrific thing. Alice Hoffman describes the effect illness (her own and that of others) has had on her work. Barbara Kingsolver grapples with writing an "unchaste" novel. Louise Erdrich explores the effect a second language, Ojibwe in her case, can have on one's involvement with the first. And Russell Banks learns the hard way that "when you meet a witness to your distant past, your memory tends to improve." The most hilarious piece is Carolyn Chute's "How Can You Create Fiction When Reality Comes to Call?" In it, she describes one day, in which "X-rated stuff happens," the cuckoo clock goes off incessantly, dirty dishes beckon, political cohorts come calling, a dog has a couple of seizures, laundry needs doing, and guests constantly arrive. Once Chute finally does get down to writing, the "n" breaks off the daisy wheel. But at least the phone doesn't ring. "Its bell is broken. It never rings. Thank heavens." --Jane Steinberg [via]