»

| Give a Gift |

  • Digital Edition

Writers Recommend

In this online exclusive we ask authors to share books, art, music, writing prompts, films—anything and everything—that has inspired them in their writing. We see this as a place for writers to turn to for ideas that will help feed their creative process.

Fragoso.jpg

Margaux Fragoso

posted 3.23.11

“I devour psychology books because they help me understand my characters; I’m fascinated by the revolutionary ideas of social psychologist Philip Zimbardo. If I’m having trouble writing a scene I examine scenes in novels I’ve read in the past. It’s a confidence booster to see that a famous author faced similar challenges and made good. I listen to poetry on my iPod; Dorothy Barresi is a contemporary favorite of mine. I’m inspired by the poetics of hip-hop artists like Mos Def and the Roots. But I can’t stick to any one writing routine or ritual forever because if I get bored with the ritual, my writing gets bored with me.”
Margaux Fragoso, author of Tiger, Tiger (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011)

Obreht.jpg

Téa Obreht

posted 3.16.11

“As a teenager, I spent hours dreaming up plots for books. This was something I felt was cooler than going to the mall, but not so cool that I was willing to waste daylight at a desk with a pencil and notepad. To make it cooler still, I would burn dozens of CDs (iPods not being in existence yet), soundtracks that would serve as musical stand-ins for what I felt I would be writing: mishmashes of rock and roll, classical music, and show tunes that, as assemblages, had no significance for anyone but me. When played, they would immediately transport me into the world I was devising, and I would walk, sometimes for miles, around and around the neighborhood, while my Discman churned in an effort I believed to be inextricably bound to my writing. I assumed, because I never actually wrote any of what I dreamed up, that this exercise was a failure. Then, many years later, I found myself in grad school and subject to a similar compulsion—except now I had a car, and ostensibly a brain, because the plots were actually making their way onto the page. I still can’t listen to music while I’m writing—music is never just white noise to me. But I would say that any writing time now begins with driving around under the influence of carefully arranged playlists that call to mind characters, plot points, or even the whole narrative arc of whatever it is I’m working on. I’m generally in favor of anything that makes the world you’re trying to create more real and accessible to you, so my advice is: Make a soundtrack for your book!”
Téa Obreht, author of The Tiger’s Wife (Random House, 2011)

finney3.jpg

Nikky Finney

posted 3.02.11

“When I was eight years old my mother found me beneath my younger brother's crib in the fetal position and sweating. I was sick with a terrible fever. But, as she reports, I was also smiling. I learned, in that fever-rich moment, how to move through space and time—unafraid, untethered—toward some kind of surprise. That dance with surprise is why I write. And the fever of dedicated drift has taught me much about how to push through my writing. Breathe—in and out—levitate, trust. Sometimes, to get this moment back, I would ask Daddy if I could stretch out in the curved back window of his silver Buick 225. While he smoked and hummed in the front seat (and never drove over twenty miles per hour), his Buick moved beneath oak and loblolly pine, and I would stare up and stretch into the fusion of spirit and mind, reentering the sweet cave of my imagination. Today one of the final acts of my revision process, when I can't seem to work it out at the desk, is to grab my poem, timer, pad, and pencil and head for my car. I place them in the passenger seat. I set the timer, then head for the highway—a road not too big, not too small, something steady and even, where I never have to think about stopping for lights or breaking for traffic. I drive for one hour only. No music. Just the air outside and the sound of the poem rambling about in my head, searching for balance, ascension, the break of the fever. The forward movement of the car is meditative and my final act of faith. One hour passes and the timer goes off. I turn the car around. Usually, before I get back home, I have made some decision about a line, phrase, title, or epigraph that I could not make while sitting still.”
Nikky Finney, author of Head Off & Split (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press, 2011)

brown_eleanor.jpg

Eleanor Brown

posted 2.23.11

“Every week, my mailbox explodes with magazines—National Geographic, the New Yorker, O, and People. My mental image of the characters in The Weird Sisters came from an advertisement for a bank. One of the story lines was sparked by a personal essay on being pregnant and dating. When I start a new project, I read magazines, folding down corners and tearing out pages. Flipping back through the clippings reminds me of where my ideas came from, and encourages me to remain open to inspiration no matter the source.”
Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters (Amy Einhorn Books, 2011)

Justin Taylor

posted 2.16.11

“Don't take notes. This is counterintuitive, but bear with me. You only get one shot at a first draft, and if you write yourself a note to look at later then that's what your first draft was—a shorthand, cryptic, half-baked fragment. When I am working full-time on a piece (story, novel, review—whatever), I find it excruciating to be out somewhere and have some relevant-seeming idea and not be able to add it to the manuscript right away. It is very hard not to reach for the notebook, but the discipline is a great teacher, and it quickly became a kind of game. I would spin out sentences and paragraphs—entire scenes and chapters—in my head, then just let them go. I learned that the important, useful stuff came back when I could sit down for a proper work session, and that what stayed gone was the junk I would have cut anyway. Whether it re-occurred to me or not became the first test of whether the idea was worth exploring. I think I read somewhere that Marilynne Robinson does this too, which, if it's true, is about as solid an endorsement as you could ask for."
Justin Taylor, author of The Gospel of Anarchy (HarperPerennial, 2011)

nezhukumatathil.jpg

Aimee Nezhukumatathil

posted 2.09.11

“I love turning to field guides, old issues of National Geographic, or biology textbooks to get a jump start when the writing comes slow. Just last week, I read how the hagfish can produce a whole bucket’s worth of slime in minutes if it gets agitated. Of all the magical plants and animals in the sea, the hagfish is the most unpopular, the most disgusting—the one that makes children burst into tears. And if that isn’t enough, it is the only fish without vertebrae, so it can literally tie itself into a knot to bulge out and pop the small mouths of fish that dare try to eat it. Don’t you admire the clever slip and wriggle? Imagine that as you sit down. Now write.”
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, author of Lucky Fish (Tupelo Press, 2011)

paul_jacob.jpg

Jacob Paul

posted 2.02.11

“The time I spend in the saddle on long bicycle tours—day after day, with no clear sense of where I might camp or buy food or shower—influences my writing process. To keep pedaling I have to stop thinking about how far I’ve gone, or how fast I’m going, or what lies ahead. When I can do that in the saddle, I can also do it at the computer. So, when I get stuck with my writing, as I did this past summer between acts four and five of my new novel, I hit the road. I write on rest days in coffee shops or diners or on campground picnic tables. And when I get home, the benefits last awhile. I can sit for a few hours and produce, without worrying about how many pages are behind or ahead.”
Jacob Paul, author of Sarah/Sara (Ig Publishing, 2010)

Dan-Gutstein.jpg

Dan Gutstein

posted 1.26.11

“When I’m feeling a bit blue as a writer, I give myself an arts assignment, one that often features ‘categorical’ elements. A few years ago, for example, I decided to create a compilation of jump-blues music. I listened to several thousand songs, and in the process, found the compilation—more than 120 recordings, more than 150 songs—expanding to a seventh compact disc. Jump music rocks more than most rock music, reminding me to be entertaining, at the very least, when I read in front of audiences, and the ordering of the songs within the compilation reminded me how pieces—poems, stories—often need to speak to each other, in collections. This is saying nothing of the mid-song tenor sax jumps, guitar jumps, etcetera, as well as the lyrics that brought many salty characters and situations to light. I will often play these songs, like a jukebox, in my mind, and the rhythms creep into my language.”
Dan Gutstein, author of Non/Fiction (Edge Books, 2010)

sellers.jpg

Heather Sellers

posted 1.19.11

“The bath. Endlessly, luxuriously, the tub. I write almost every morning and after an hour or two or three or (if I’m very lucky) four, I run out of road. And then I know it’s time. I gather up my pages, a book or three of poetry (lately Marianne Boruch, Shakespeare, James Tate, Hopkins, Emily Dickinson), the New Yorker (just in case), some reliable crutches—the Paris Review or Best American anything—and a couple of pens. And I set all that on the commode, which seems so wrong and disorderly, but it’s perfect. Hot water, three drops of lavender oil, maybe salts. No soap. Never soap. This isn’t about sanitation or cleansing. It’s about sinking. It’s about depth and quietness and suspended animation. It’s about a pristine and captured hour. I step into my steaming tub, read over my pages. My glasses fog up. The pages puff and curl. I set them on the edge. I read or don’t read. As I relax and melt, whatever stopped me in my tracks earlier, up in the studio, might transform into something else. Sometimes I don’t even look at any of the stuff I drag in there. It takes it’s own parallel bath.”
Heather Sellers, author of You Don't Look Like Anyone I Know (Riverhead Books, 2010)

stewart.jpg

Matt Stewart

posted 1.12.11

"Dog walks with no iPhone access force me to pay attention to San Francisco's world-class characters, who are wonderfully weird and story provoking. I recently saw a shirtless Jesus doppelgänger playing drums while riding a beach cruiser uphill, which has already made it into my next novel. Also, there's nothing like difficult, mindless stationary cycling for plot breakthroughs, and loud heavy metal."

<< first < previous Page: 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 next > last >>

171 - 180 of 278 results

Subscribe to P&W Magazine | Donate Now | Advertise | Sign up for E-Newsletter | Help | About Us | Contact Us | View Mobile Site

© Copyright Poets & Writers 2014. All Rights Reserved