Writers on … books

frozen oceanA book ought to be an ice pick to break up the frozen sea within us. — Franz Kafka 

I spent my life folded between the pages of books. In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction. ― Tahereh Mafi

book manThere is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic. — Diane Setterfield

I shall tell you what I believe. I believe God is a librarian. I believe that literature is holy…it is that best part of our souls that we break off and give each other, and God has a special dispensation for it, angels to guard its making and its preservation. — Sarah Smith 

That is the power of a good story. It can encourage you, it can make you laugh, it can bring you joy. It will make you think, it will tap innto your hidden emotions, and it can make you cry. The power of a story can also bring about healing, give you peace, and change your life! — Jeff Dixon


Writers on … truth


images-2The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it. — Margaret Atwood

Good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little. But we do. — Anne Lamott

There are more truths in a good book than its author meant to put in it. — Marie von Ebner-Eschenback

truthA writer paradoxically seeks the truth and tells lies every step of the way. — Anne Lamott

My function as a writer is not story-telling but truth-telling: to make things plain. — Laura Riding Jackson

Writers are the moral purifiers of the culture. We may not be pure ourselves but we must tell the truth, which is a purifying act. — Rita Mae Brown

vwoolfNo matter how true I believe what I am writing to be, if the reader cannot participate in that truth, then I have failed. — Madeleine L’Engle

Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures. — Jessamyn West

It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top. —Virginia Woolf

If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered. — Stephen King

Tell the truth but tell it slant. — Emily Dickinson

Writers on … young writers

youngwritersMost of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen. — Willa Cather

Anyone who is going to be a writer knows enough at fifteen to write several novels. — May Sarton

When people ask me what qualifies me to be a writer for children, I say I was once a child. But I was not only a child, I was, better still, a weird little kid, and though I would never choose to give my own children this particular preparation for life, there are few things, apparently, more helpful to a writer than having once been a weird little kid.– Katherine Paterson

If I had to give young writers advice, I would say don’t listen to writers talking about writing or themselves. — Lillian Hellman

Writers on … a writer’s room

You must find your own quiet center of life, and write from that to the world. — Sarah Orne Jewett

stephen kingA wrier needs certain conditions in which to work and create art. She needs a piece of time; a peace of mind; a quiet place; a private life. — Margaret Walker

Appealing workplaces are to be avoided. One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark. — Annie Dillard

The ideal view for daily writing, hour on hour, is the blank brick wall of a cold-storage warehouse. Failing this, a stretch of sky will do, cloudless if possible. — Edna Ferber

Writers on … improving

fire aliveIf you don’t keep and mature your force and avove all have time and quiet to perfect your work, you will be writing things not much better than you did five years ago. … Otherwise, what might be strength is only crudeness, and what might be insight is only observation. You will write about life, but never life itself. — Sarah Orne Jewett

Writing is not, alas, like riding a bicycle: it does not get easier with practice. — Nancy Mairs

You have to love writing, but more importantly, you have to love learning to write better.–  Jim Averback

how goodGood writing is bad writing that was rewritten. —Marc Raibert

You have to write a lot. And you have to rewrite what you wrote a lot more. — Holly Black

Writing came easy — it would only get hard when I got better at it. — Garry Willis

Perfecting and selling your writing is a lifelong task. If you are a persistent writer you can expect your abilities to improve with time. Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm. — Winston Churchill

You only learn to be a better writer by writing. I don’t know much about creative writing programs. But they’re not telling the truth if they don’t teach, one, that writing is hard work and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer. —     Doris Lessing 


Writers on … the joy of writing

what you loveI am certainly glad you like the stories because now I feel it’s not bad that I like them so much. The truth is I ike them better than anybody and I read them over and over and laugh and laugh, then get embarrassed when I remember I was the one who wrote them. — Flannery O’Connor

As a writer you are free … You are the country where you make up the rules, the laws. You are both dictator and obedient populace. It is a country nobody has ever explored before. It is up to you to make the maps, to build the cities. Nobody else in the world can do it, or ever could do it, or ever will be able to do it again. — Ursula K. Le Guin

joyYour freedom as a writer is not freedom of expression in the sense of wild blurting; you may not let rip. It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself. — Annie Dillard

I write. The longer I live, the more convinced I’ve become that I cultivate my truest self in this one way. — Tom Chiarella

With good writing, I think, the most profound response is finally a sigh, or a gasp, or holy silence. — Tim O’Brien

At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you. — Annie Dillard

When I am writing I am doing the thing I was meant to do. — Anne Sexton

Writers on … first drafts

1st draftsGetting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor. — Joyce Carol Oates

It is better to write a bad first draft than to write no first draft at all. — Will Shetterly

Write a first draft as though you were thinking aloud, not carving a monument. — Patricia T. O’Connor

I revise constantly, as I go along and then again after I’ve finished a first draft. Few of my novels contain a single sentence that closely resembles the sentence I first set down. I jut find that I have to keep zapping annd zapping the English language until it starts to behave in some way that vaguely matches my intentions. — Michael Cunningham

Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of themost enjoyable moments in life, period. — Nicholas Sparks

Generally I finish a first draft i2 – 6 months, then I set it aside for a while so that when I come back to it I can read it with fresh eyes and figure out how to improve it. — Margaret Haddix