| 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.


Hannah Pittard

posted 4.06.11

“I walk around my apartment and read aloud from The Norton Anthology of Poetry. There are a few favorites: Michael Drayton’s “Sonnet 61”: “Since there’s no help, come let us kiss and part; / Nay, I have done, you get no more of me”; John Donne’s “A Nocturnal upon St. Lucy’s Day, Being the Shortest Day”: “Oft a flood / Have we two wept, and so / Drowned the whole world, us two; oft did we grow / To be two chaoses, when we did show / Care to aught else; and often absences / Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses”; and John Keats’s “This Living Hand”: “See here it is— / I hold it towards you.” I’m a little like a character from a Whit Stillman movie when I do this—remember the scene from Barcelona where the one guy puts on polka music (or something similar) and dances around his apartment while he reads from the Bible?—but I know that a story isn’t too far away when I reach for the Norton.”
Hannah Pittard, author of The Fates Will Find Their Way (HarperCollins, 2011)


Tan Lin

posted 3.30.11

“I’ve spent six or seven years reading The Man Without Qualities—sometimes I read it all the way through and sometimes random excerpts of it. I’ve returned to it many times. This book has proven to be an exercise in ambience applied to reading. It exists, sporadically at times, in the various rooms that I read it in, at different moments in my life. Each chapter resolves, if that is the word for it, around an anecdote. This anecdote might be about the weather, the occurrence of a love affair, a communications medium, or a note on factory production, which is followed by a meditation or an essay. The essay is not an interruption of the fictive armature because it is part of a work that treats fiction as life.”
Tan Lin, author of Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking 
(Wesleyan University Press, 2010)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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

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)

<< first < previous Page: 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 next > last >>

191 - 200 of 300 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 2015. All Rights Reserved