Rules, Tips, and Commandments

Blogs

 
          
     
Recommended Books
  • A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
    A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
    by Noah Lukeman
  • Adventures in the Screen Trade
    Adventures in the Screen Trade
    by William Goldman
  • APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
    APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book
    by Guy Kawasaki, Shawn Welch
  • A Room of One's Own
    A Room of One's Own
    by Virginia Woolf
  • The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts
    The Art of Fiction: Illustrated from Classic and Modern Texts
    by David Lodge
  • The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
    The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers
    by John Gardner
  • The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
    The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present
    by Phillip Lopate
  • The Associated Press Stylebook 2009 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law)
    The Associated Press Stylebook 2009 (Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law)
    Basic Books
  • Aspects of the Novel
    Aspects of the Novel
    by E.M. Forster
  • Becoming a Writer
    Becoming a Writer
    by Dorothea Brande
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
    by Anne Lamott
  • Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas
    Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas
    Three Rivers Press
  • Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Seventeenth Edition
    Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Seventeenth Edition
    by John Ayto
  • The Careful Writer
    The Careful Writer
    by Theodore M. Bernstein
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
    The Chicago Manual of Style
    University Of Chicago Press
  • The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
    The Copyeditor's Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications
    by Amy Einsohn
  • The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
    The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear
    by Ralph Keyes
  • The Craft of Fiction
    The Craft of Fiction
    by Percy Lubbock
  • The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists
    The Editor's Lexicon: Essential Writing Terms for Novelists
    by Sarah Cypher
  • Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do
    Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do
    Grove Press
  • The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
    The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition
    by William Strunk Jr., E. B. White
  • Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
    Endangered Species: Writers Talk About Their Craft, Their Visions, Their Lives
    by Lawrence Grobel
  • Fiction Writer's Handbook
    Fiction Writer's Handbook
    by Hallie Burnett, Whit Burnett
  • Fiction Writer's Workshop
    Fiction Writer's Workshop
    by Josip Novakovich
  • Flaubert's Parrot
    Flaubert's Parrot
    by Julian Barnes
  • Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction
    Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction
    by James B. Stewart
  • The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
    The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers
    by Betsy Lerner
  • For Writers Only
    For Writers Only
    by Sophy Burnham
  • William Goldman: Four Screenplays with Essays
    William Goldman: Four Screenplays with Essays
    by William Goldman
  • Fowler's Modern English Usage
    Fowler's Modern English Usage
    by the late R. W. Burchfield
  • The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard
    The Friendly Shakespeare: A Thoroughly Painless Guide to the Best of the Bard
    by Norrie Epstein
  • A Glossary of Literary Terms
    A Glossary of Literary Terms
    by M.H. Abrams, Geoffrey Harpham
  • How Fiction Works
    How Fiction Works
    by James Wood
  • How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar
    How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar
    by William Safire
  • How to Get Happily Published
    How to Get Happily Published
    by Judith Appelbaum
  • How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Writing)
    How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy (Genre Writing)
    by Orson Scott Card
  • How To Write Short Stories: With Samples
    How To Write Short Stories: With Samples
    by Ring Lardner
  • If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
    If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit
    by Brenda Ueland
  • Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir
    Inventing the Truth: The Art and Craft of Memoir
    Mariner Books
  • Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Harvest Book)
    Keep the Aspidistra Flying (Harvest Book)
    by George Orwell
  • Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them
    Lapsing Into a Comma : A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them
    by Bill Walsh
  • Letters to a Young Poet: Translated and with a Foreword By Stephen Mitchell
    Letters to a Young Poet: Translated and with a Foreword By Stephen Mitchell
    by Ranier Maria Rilke
  • Making a Good Script Great
    Making a Good Script Great
    by Linda Seger
  • Making a Literary Life
    Making a Literary Life
    by Carolyn See
  • Master Class: Scenes from a Fiction Workshop
    Master Class: Scenes from a Fiction Workshop
    by Paul West
  • Metaphors We Live By
    Metaphors We Live By
    by George Lakoff, Mark Johnson
  • The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
    The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer's Block, and the Creative Brain
    by Alice Weaver Flaherty
  • Henry Miller on Writing (New Directions Paperbook)
    Henry Miller on Writing (New Directions Paperbook)
    by Henry Miller
  • Movie Speak: How to Talk Like You Belong on a Movie Set
    Movie Speak: How to Talk Like You Belong on a Movie Set
    by Tony Bill
  • Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form
    Narrative Design: Working with Imagination, Craft, and Form
    by Madison Smartt Bell
  • New Grub Street (Broadview Editions)
    New Grub Street (Broadview Editions)
    by George Gissing
  • Nonconformity
    Nonconformity
    by Nelson Algren
  • On Becoming a Novelist
    On Becoming a Novelist
    by John Gardner
  • One Writer's Beginnings (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)
    One Writer's Beginnings (The William E. Massey Sr. Lectures in the History of American Civilization)
    by Eudora Welty
  • On Writing Short Stories
    On Writing Short Stories
    Oxford University Press, USA
  • On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
    On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
    by Stephen King
  • On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    by William Zinsser
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions (Oxford Paperback Reference)
    The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions (Oxford Paperback Reference)
    Oxford University Press, USA
  • Poetic Meter and Poetic Form
    Poetic Meter and Poetic Form
    by Paul Fussell
  • The Paris Review Interviews, Vols. 1-4
    The Paris Review Interviews, Vols. 1-4
    by The Paris Review
  • Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.)
    Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (P.S.)
    by Francine Prose
  • The Rhetoric of Fiction
    The Rhetoric of Fiction
    by Wayne C. Booth
  • The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
    The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life
    by Julia Cameron
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
    Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
    by Renni Browne, Dave King
  • Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, 16th Edition: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Self Publishing Manual)
    Dan Poynter's Self-Publishing Manual, 16th Edition: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book (Self Publishing Manual)
    by Dan Poynter
  • Simple & Direct
    Simple & Direct
    by Jacques Barzun
  • Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences
    Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences
    by Kitty Burns Florey
  • The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative
    The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative
    by Vivian Gornick
  • The Sound on the Page: Great Writers Talk about Style and Voice in Writing
    The Sound on the Page: Great Writers Talk about Style and Voice in Writing
    by Ben Yagoda
  • Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting
    Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting
    by Robert Mckee
  • Stylish Academic Writing
    Stylish Academic Writing
    by Helen Sword
  • Successful Television Writing
    Successful Television Writing
    by Lee Goldberg, William Rabkin
  • The Summing Up
    The Summing Up
    by W. Somerset Maugham
  • 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
    13 Ways of Looking at the Novel
    by Jane Smiley
  • Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories
    Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories
    by Peter Hanson, Paul Robert Herman
  • To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
    To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction
    by Phillip Lopate
  • Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
    Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
    by Scott Mccloud
  • What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
    What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
    by Anne Bernays, Pamela Painter
  • The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
    The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
    by Steven Pressfield
  • Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
    Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do
    Plume
  • Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews
    Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews
    Modern Library
  • The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to): Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry
    The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to): Guide to the Legal and Business Practices of Writing for the Entertainment Industry
    by Brooke A. Wharton
  • Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic's Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers
    Ambrose Bierce's Write It Right: The Celebrated Cynic's Language Peeves Deciphered, Appraised, and Annotated for 21st-Century Readers
    by Ambrose Bierce, Jan Freeman
  • The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    The Writer's Chapbook: A Compendium of Fact, Opinion, Wit, and Advice from the Twentieth Century's Preeminent Writers (Modern Library)
    Modern Library
  • The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    The Writer on Her Work, Volume 1
    by Janet Sternberg
  • The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
    The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
    by Christopher Vogler
  • The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook For The Working Writer, Third Edition
    The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook For The Working Writer, Third Edition
    by Brad Bunnin, Peter Beren
  • A Writer's Reality
    A Writer's Reality
    by Mario Vargas Llosa
  • A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write
    A Writer's Time: Making the Time to Write
    by Kenneth Atchity
  • Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
    Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past
    by William Zinsser
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Paperback)
    Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Paperback)
    by Natalie Goldberg (Author)
  • Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
    Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular
    by L. Rust Hills
  • Writing for Your Life
    Writing for Your Life
    by Deena Metzger
  • The Writing Life
    The Writing Life
    by Annie Dillard
  • The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
    The Writing Life: Writers On How They Think And Work
    by Marie Arana
  • The Writing of Fiction
    The Writing of Fiction
    by Edith Wharton
  • Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
    Writing the Novel: From Plot to Print
    by Lawrence Block
  • Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    Writing Past Dark: Envy, Fear, Distraction and Other Dilemmas in the Writer's Life
    by Bonnie Friedman
  • You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
    You're a Genius All the Time: Belief and Technique for Modern Prose
    by Regina Weinreich, Jack Kerouac
  • Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    Zen in the Art of Writing: Releasing the Creative Genius Within You
    by Ray Bradbury

 

ATW INTERVIEW

Tuesday
Aug152017

Jennifer Latson

How did you become a writer?

I started my journalism career at The (Centralia) Chronicle, a small newspaper in the foothills of the Washington Cascades, where my title was “rural reporter,” meaning that I covered the goings-on in towns with fewer than 1,000 residents. Most of my stories were about logging accidents, mill accidents, meth lab explosions, and, even more harrowing, small-town politics. I covered events like the Toledo (Washington) Cheese Days festival and was later banned from the Morton Loggers Jubilee for writing about an 80-year-old retired logger who wasn’t allowed to compete in the spar pole climbing contest. He had proven to me, in a demonstration that I feared would become another logging accident, that he was still a force to be reckoned with on the spar pole. This was the best job I’ve ever had. 

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

One of my all-time favorite books is Anne Fadiman’s The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. I read it when I was just starting out in journalism, and it became the model for the kind of immersive literary journalism I wanted to do. Rebecca Skloot and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s books have also been immense sources of inspiration.

My freshman year in college, I was extraordinarily lucky to have Susan Rieger, the author of The Heirs and The Divorce Papers, as a writing teacher. She wasn’t a novelist then, but she was an incredible teacher whose advice and encouragement have fueled my writing career from the beginning. It’s funny; she read all these essays I wrote when I was 18, but I didn’t get to read any of her work until a few years ago, when she published her first book. And then I realized that our writing styles are nothing alike — I admire her writing enormously, but our voices are very different. I’m not sure why that surprised me, but I guess I had always assumed that she had taught me to write like her. Instead, she had helped me cultivate my own unique voice. I’m so grateful to her for that.

When and where do you write? 

My favorite place to write is at a coffee shop. I spent eight years in newsrooms, and I find that the background noise is good for focus. I like having other people around — as long as they’re doing their own thing and ignoring me. The biggest drawback is that I never know what to do with my laptop when I go to the restroom. Do I take it with me? Ask someone to watch it? Cover it with napkins and hope nobody notices it? Usually I just hurry and hope for the best.

What are you working on now? 

I’m trying to come up with an idea for my next book. If you have any, let me know. My first book, The Boy Who Loved Too Much, is narrative nonfiction about a rare genetic disorder called Williams syndrome, which is sometimes called the opposite of autism: It makes people extremely outgoing and overwhelmingly affectionate. That project took seven years from conception to publication, and the immersive reporting, while incredibly rewarding and worthwhile, was intense. I can’t imagine spending that much time with people who aren’t so intrinsically kind and lovable — which is pretty much all of the rest of us. So I’d like to pick something that won’t take quite as long. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Often, but never for very long. The antidote is to have daily deadlines that your livelihood depends on. Luckily, I had those as a newspaper reporter; I’ve tried to impose them on myself now that I don’t have editors yelling at me. I set daily word goals and just imagine the irate editor.

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

Write directly.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Be interesting.

Jennifer Latson is the author of The Boy Who Loved Too Much, the poignant story of a boy’s coming-of-age complicated by Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder that makes people biologically incapable of distrust. In a starred review, Publishers Weekly wrote, “[Latson] skillfully interweaves the science — what we do and don’t know about genetic disorders such as Williams — with a powerful story line.”

Tuesday
Aug082017

Anne Corlett

How did you become a writer?

I wrote compulsively from a very young age, but took a break from it when I was first working as a lawyer in London. The break lasted ten years, and came to an end when I suddenly decided that I needed to sit down then and there and write the novel that had been brewing for all that time. Unfortunately, this was right in the middle of a move from London to Somerset, and our eldest son was 18 months old at the time. I was therefore extremely unpopular with everyone involved in the moving process, and I’m probably very lucky that people were still speaking to me by the time the first draft was finished.

That novel got me an agent, and garnered some interest, but ultimately went unpublished. The second got as far as an acquisitions meeting. It was the third, written in the closing months of the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA, after a late change of project, that made it to the finishing post.

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

I had a very inspirational English teacher when I was at secondary school. She always encouraged me in my writing, and also encouraged me to read widely. She did, however, once say to me that if I was serious about writing, I needed to spend less time reading science fiction and fantasy and more time on the classics. It was probably the one bit of her advice that I didn’t take, as shortly after that I discovered some of the incredible speculative fiction of writers such as Margaret Atwood and Doris Lessing, and, as a result, realised that ‘literary fiction’ and ‘speculative fiction’ were not mutually exclusive concepts!

While we’re talking about writing influences, I’d also like to give a nod to the wonderful How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman. It might make you wince regularly as you recognise some of your own horrible habits, but it’s ultimately an incredibly insightful and accurate look at the worst mistakes that a writer can make, set out in a humourous, laughing-with-you-not-at-you way.

When and where do you write?

I’m a bit of a nomad when it comes to writing. If I try to spend the whole working day in the same place, I generally get bored and find my attention wandering. I therefore tend to move about over the course of the day. I might start in the local bookshop café, then head home to my desk, for a couple of hours, before moving downstairs to the kitchen table for a last burst. If the weather is good. For some reason, I also like being high up when I’m working, so I’ve been known to head up the garden to perch on the kids’ climbing frame with my laptop.

As to the ‘when’, the answer is any time I’m not being harassed by three small boys who expect me to act as cook, cleaner, chauffeur and referee, and be on call 24/7.

What are you working on now?

I’ve returned to the project I put on hold to write The Space Between the Stars. It’s set in an alternate version of London and based around the strange and compelling world of immersive theatre.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

I’ve never suffered from a complete block, but I do sometimes find things very slow going. Oddly, the times when I’m plodding along, thinking ‘Good grief, I’m even boring myself here’ quite often seem to be the times that produce my better work!

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

My MA tutor Maggie Gee put a huge amount of time and effort into getting me to realise that, when it comes to writing, less is almost always more. She once said that I had a habit of ruining a great sentence by going on just a beat too long. That advice often echoes in my mind when I feel myself getting carried away, and trying to remember the last time I hit the full-stop key.

What’s your advice to new writers?

I think that learning to write is a patchwork process. You can’t rely entirely on courses and classes – you have to spend time on your own, just getting the words down on the page and learning from your own mistakes. But equally, there probably aren’t that many writers who can reach publication standard entirely on their own natural ability, with no input from anyone else. It’s probably worth spending a bit of time figuring out what it is that you want to write, and getting a decent number of words down on the page, before starting to look around for ways to hone your skills. Have a look at some books on writing – like How Not to Write a Novel, mentioned above – or online courses. Once you’re feeling confident with the basics, you might want to consider joining a local writing group – feeding back on other people’s work is as valuable as receiving feedback on your own – or investing in a more intensive course or retreat.

Anne Corlett is originally from the north-east of England, but sort of slid down the map and now lives in the south-west with her partner and three young sons. She is a criminal lawyer by profession, but now writes full-time – or as full time as the aforementioned sons will allow. The Space Between the Stars is her first published novel, and was released in the UK on1 June by Pan Macmillan and in the US on 13 June by Berkley Publishing.

Tuesday
Aug012017

David Burr Gerrard

How did you become a writer?

Reading certain books gave me a certain intense feeling, and it seemed to me that a major point of being alive was to experience that feeling. I wanted to write books that would make readers experience that feeling. So I wrote, then threw away what I had written because it was terrible, then wrote some more. Eventually I made a significant amount of headway on two manuscripts—one called Short Century, the second called The Epiphany Machine—but with each one I got stuck. I went back and forth between the two for years. I often thought that neither manuscript would ever be published, that nothing I wrote would ever be published. I kept writing anyway. Short Century was published in 2014, The Epiphany Machine is being published this summer, and I am well under way on my third novel.  

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

Kafka is the clearest influence on The Epiphany Machine. He’s the only writer in the history of literature whose work might reasonably be called “realistic.” My other biggest influence is Philip Roth, the writer whose books I always want to put down and yell at, then to keep reading. That’s my model for what engagement with literature should look like. If you’re not tempted to hate a book, why would you bother loving it?

My most important writing teacher was Leslie Woodard, with whom I took creative-writing classes in high school and college. She died in 2013 at the age of fifty-three. I am only stating the facts when I say that I still hear her voice in my head whenever I sit down to write, and especially whenever I try to avoid sitting down to write.  

When and where do you write? 

Whenever and wherever I can manage not to have an internet connection. This usually means both leaving my apartment and using the Internet-blocking app that is strangely but perceptively called Freedom. 

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a novel about a mysterious disease that appears to be killing everyone born in the calendar year 1981 (the year I was born) but is leaving everyone else unaffected. It obviously reflects my own concerns about my encroaching middle age, just as The Epiphany Machine reflects my own concerns about finding my own way and my own value system. I like taking whatever is most personal to me and spinning it around I can find a weird angle that allows me to see it more fully and clearly.   

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Every day. Writer’s block is like heavy traffic or problems with the subway on your commute to work. It’s so frustrating it can make you want to peel your skin off. But you wouldn’t let a bad commute keep you from getting to work, would you?

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

Write every day, and accept no excuse to miss a day. Then, when you inevitably go for days or weeks or months without writing, forgive yourself and get right back to work. 

What’s your advice to new writers?

That even when you’ve ignored the best writing advice, even when you feel you’ve squandered every opportunity, even when your other obligations nibble at your day until it seems there is nothing left but the tiniest crumbs, even when you’re convinced you have zero talent and that your time at the keyboard could be better spent any other way, still, STILL you can get some writing done today. Finally, the best writing advice is also the best life advice: remember that nobody else has any idea what they’re doing, either.

David Burr Gerrard is the author of THE EPIPHANY MACHINE (Putnam, July 2017) and SHORT CENTURY (Rare Bird, 2014). He teaches creative writing at the 92nd Street Y, The New School, and the Sackett Street Writers' Workshop. He lives in Queens, NY with his wife.

Tuesday
Jul252017

Andrea Askowitz

How did you become a writer?

I became a writer after I failed at saving the world. I was 25 when I went to graduate school in public policy because I wanted to understand the government so I could be a more effective advocate. In grad school I had a teacher, Jill Kasle, who had us write a one-page story in the style of an author. I picked The Bell Jar and really thought I nailed Sylvia Plath. When I first read The Bell Jar I though it was funny although I did get that the narrator was severely depressed. The last time I read it, it didn’t seem as funny, but almost 25 years ago, Plath’s humor and simple style gave me the feeling that I could write too. The same thing happened when I was assigned A Room of One’s Own and was instructed to explain my book in the voice of Virginia Woolf. I understood that the book was a serious essay on the inequality between men and women, but I also thought Woolf was really funny. I still remember the line, "It is the nature of biscuits to be dry and these were biscuits to the core.” Woolf was talking about how bad the food was at women’s colleges versus the food at men’s colleges. After grad school, while looking for a job (not that hard), I read Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way. She tells you to get rid of people in your life who are crazy-makers. At the time I had a big, unrequited crush on a woman who was a drinker, and to stay away from her, for nine months, I holed up and wrote a novel. The novel is somewhere buried on my computer, but the experience got me started. For about 10 years after that, I worked a few jobs—environmentalist, advocate for homeless people, reproductive rights organizer—and got fired from all of them before I decided, at 35, to take writing seriously. That was 14 years ago.

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

I've had great teachers: Joyce Maynard, Terrie Silverman, Jill Kasle, Peggy Sanday, Cheryl Strayed, Steve Almond, Vikram Chandra, Ann Randolph. The books that have taught me are The Bell Jar, A Room of One’s Own, The Things They Carried, At Home in the World, In Cold Blood, Into Thin Air, Wild, Torch, Tiny Beautiful Things, so many David Sedaris stories, same for Joyce Maynard, and lots and lots of essays both published and ones written by my students for almost ten years.

When and where do you write?

I write in my office, which is the garage of my house. I get to my desk at about 9 a.m., but I’m never in a huge rush. Everyday, I try to write until my kids come home from school at 4:30, but I don’t write everyday.

What are you working on now?

I finished my second memoir currently titled, Attention Whore, which is about a woman who needs lots of attention. The author Kim Severson says the kitchen table is the modern-day tribal fire, the place where people come together to connect. I’m looking for tribal fires everywhere. Sometimes I even start them. The problem is, I’m married to a classic introvert who needs hours of alone-time daily. You know how they say every couple has their fight? Ours is the one where my wife isn’t listening and I want more attention.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

I think I might be suffering right now. This is a hard moment because I broke up with my agent. I’m looking for a new agent and at the same time, I polish and re-polish my finished memoir. I know I need to start something new, but the book just needs a little more polish. Also, I’m chicken-shit.

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

Steve Almond said he got better as a writer by reading bad writing. He was the editor of his college journal, so lots of the submissions weren’t the best. I took that as advice, to put myself in the position of editor, which I do as the teacher and co-producer of the podcast Writing Class Radio.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Get yourself into a writing class or form a writing group. Learn to be a good listener. Figure out what works and what doesn’t in other people's stories so you can identify what works and doesn’t in your own. Also, there’s nothing more motivating than having an audience and deadlines. If you can’t find a group or even if you can, listen to the podcast Writing Class Radio. 

Andrea Askowitz is the author of the memoir My Miserable, Lonely, Lesbian Pregnancy (Cleis) and the editor of Badass: True Stories, the Double Album (Lominy Books). Her stories have appeared in The New York Times, Salon, xoJane, Brain, Child, AEON, and have aired on NPR and PBS.  She is the founder of the Knight award-winning, true-stories reading series Lip Service. She is also co-producer, teacher and co-host of the podcast Writing Class Radio. Andrea grew up in Miami where she lives with her wife, Victoria, and children Natasha, Sebastian and Beast. Tweet her at @andreaaskowitz. Info at andreaaskowitz.com.

Tuesday
Jul182017

Andrew Crofts

How did you become a writer?

When I left school at 17 I wanted to be freelance and I wanted to have as many different experiences as possible. I wanted to be able to follow my interests, ask a lot of questions, learn a lot, meet a lot of different people and hear a lot of stories. I also wanted to spend a lot of time on my own, thinking and writing. So I did every sort of writing work I could find, earning money wherever I could. I wrote begging letters to every editor and publisher whose address I could find, and submitted my own speculative work at the same time. Eventually people started to respond and eventually they stopped sending rejection letters.

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

I learnt to read with the Paddington Bear books. For comedy I was influenced by P.G. Wodehouse, for lifestyle by Lord Byron. I learnt about the rich from Scott Fitzgerald and the poor from George Orwell and it was the books of Graham Greene, Jan Morris and Paul Theroux that made me want to travel.

When and where do you write?

My study at home is a converted game larder with windows on three sides looking out over the gardens. I work best from lunch time to dinner time.

What are you working on now?

I am working on an American billionaire's business book/biography and am about to start the memoir of a young man who survived the genocide in the Rwanda as a small child after seeing 80 members of his family slaughtered with hammers and machetes. 

I am putting the final touches to a manuscript for a spiritual leader based in Paris and the biography of an Australian who has built an enormously successful company in Saigon. (Graham Greene-land again.) At the same time I am promoting the newly published paperback version of my novella "Secrets of the Italian Gardener".  

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

No, never. My theory is that if you get blocked you are not ready to write that book and simply need to do some more thinking or some more research. I always have several projects on the go at any one time anyway.

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

"Kill your darlings" - i.e. cut out most of what you write to make sure it is as tight as it can be.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Learn about marketing and how it works. You need to be able to sell yourself and your work - or you will starve.

Andrew Crofts is a ghostwriter and author who has published more than eighty books, a dozen of which were Sunday Times number one bestsellers. He has also guided a number of international clients successfully through the minefield of independent publishing.

Andrew’s name first became known to publishers for the stories he brought them by the otherwise disenfranchised. Travelling all over the world he worked with victims of enforced marriages in North Africa and the Middle East, sex workers in the Far East, orphans in war-torn areas like Croatia and dictatorships like Romania, victims of crimes and abused children everywhere.

The enormous success of these books brought many very different people to his door; first came the celebrities from the worlds of film, music, television and sport, and then the real elite in the form of world leaders and the mysterious, powerful people who finance them, arm them and, in some cases, control them. 

As well as using traditional publishers to reach readers, he has also published his own fiction, most recently “Secrets of the Italian Gardener”, which draws on his experience among the powerful and wealthy.

His books on writing include “Ghostwriting”, (A&C Black) and “The Freelance Writer’s Handbook”, (Piatkus), which has been reprinted eight times over twenty years and “Confessions of a Ghostwriter” (Friday Project)..

Throughout his bestseller, “The Ghost”, Robert Harris quotes Andrew’s book, “Ghostwriting”. Harris’s book went on to become a major movie by the same name, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Ewan McGregor as the eponymous ghost.

Andrew was on the Management Committee of the Society of Authors from 2012 to 2015. He lectures on the subject of making a living from writing at Kingston University and frequently guests at writing workshops, literary festivals and in the media. He blogs regularly on matters pertaining to publishing, self-publishing and writing.