Thursday, April 11, 2013

Twenty Writers Tell Us Why They Write

The title of “Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do” (Plume, 2013) is self-explanatory. Edited by Meredith Maran, this small gem of a book gives us the inside scoop about some well known contemporary writers, including Isabel Allende, Jennifer Egan, Gish Jen, Sebastian Junger, Mary Karr, Armistead Maupin, Terry McMillan, Ann Patchett, Jane Smiley, and Meg Wolitzer, to highlight a few. What motivates them? What are their writing habits? How do they deal with writing blocks? What have their happiest moments been? Each writer’s chapter includes a brief introduction by the editor, a list of “vitals” (basic information about each author), a list of the author’s works, an essay of about 5-10 pages by the author, and a final boxed and bulleted list of the author’s “Wisdom for Writers.” There are some common threads, of course; the one I noticed most frequently was some variation of the theme “I write because I have to; I write because I can’t imagine not writing.” The chapters are written in an informal, almost conversational style, with plenty of juicy tidbits for those of us who want to know all about the writers we read. Almost anyone who loves to read and/or write will find much to enjoy and learn from, in a very accessible format, in this appealing book.

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