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.

Kristin Bair O’Keeffe

12.16.09

“I’m an American. My husband is from Ireland. We adopted our daughter from Vietnam. We live in Shanghai, China. During the past four years, I’ve traveled to India, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, France, Ireland, Italy, China, and, of course, the United States. Every time I land in a new country, a new city, I get this crazy buzz...this itch...this urge to see, see, see...watch, watch, watch...listen, listen, listen...and then write, write, write.

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Jonathan Lethem

12.16.09

“Have lucky things. It doesn't matter what they are. I bought a green cardigan sweater for a quarter at a thrift store in Bennington, Vermont, and wore it nearly every day through the writing of my first three novels, until it was in tatters. Even then I kept it in my closet and wore the tatters for selected moments as I wrote the next book or two.

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Mary Jo Bang

11.24.09

“I take notes all the time—when I watch a movie, when I listen to a talk, when I ride on the subway or sit in a waiting room. I write down things I see, things I hear, things I think. None of it has to cohere at the time but I keep it all in a small notebook and occasionally I look there and some of what I’ve written will cluster and suggest a direction. The park bench, Washington oysters, Vladimir Vodka, and Cher dressed as Cleopatra, will sometimes line up and lead me to a subject.”
Mary Jo Bang, The Bride of E (Graywolf Press, 2009)

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Laura van den Berg

11.18.09

“Seek out influence. When I’m stuck on how to do something, I’ll reread a book that accomplishes what I am attempting—The Quick and The Dead by Joy Williams is one I return to oftenand try to figure out how the author pulled it off. Sometimes just looking at a few passages, or reading them aloud, can alter my way of seeing. Also, I like to go to places that inspire mea bench in my favorite park, a quiet spot in a museum, a seat in the dark back row of a movie theater.

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Debra Spark

11.11.09

“I am, for the first time in my writing life, consciously taking a break from writing. By which I mean that I’m not involved in a big creative project just now. I just had a book published, and I have another manuscript that I’m about to shop around, so I’m not ready to dive into something new, if only because I have no ideas at the moment. ‘Sometimes,’ as one of my writer-friends likes to say, ‘you need to let the toilet tank fill up.’ So that's what I’m doing. Sort of.

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Dara Wier

11.4.09

“My childhood location, south of New Orleans, on the banks of the Mississippi River leaned me toward inclinations I think help with poetry’s desires:

“What’s coming around the bend, what might float by next on its waters, what weather will do to it, who will pass by, who will wave or hail and how, what’s it like in the day time and in the night, how many waves will any particular ship’s wake make, what tides do, how seasons are.

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John Haskell

10.28.09

“Over the years a number of things (film, theater, writing, music, etcetera) have become catalysts and have boosted me in my writing. I just looked up the word boost and three definitions are (1) a push from below, like a boost over a wall, (2) an amplification, and (3) informally, to steal. So, almost randomly, here are two boosters I've had.

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Joshua Mohr

10.21.09

“I'm not sure many people think of insomnia as a good thing, but it is. As a ‘sufferer,’ I'm up until five or six in the morning almost daily. One thing I’ve found is that I write with the most imagination in the middle of the night, as though my subconscious and conscious are more in tune with each other—something about being liberated from cell phones and e-mails and other plights of the real world.

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