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.

Terese Svoboda

9.30.09

“Sitting at the desk. Naps. The painting over my desk shows a woman lying on a bed with her eyes closed: The Sheepshearers Dream. I jump rope to keep awake. Walk the dogs. Nuts, one at a time until my stomach hurts. No music—I get sucked into the emotion. Forget about lyrics. I reread what I really admire and can’t quite understand, say, Brenda Shaughnessy or Dawn Raffel or Caryl Churchill. I need rough edges or half a memory, the perfect story only if it’s mostly forgotten. The way you forget how bad birthing is—and still have sex again.”

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Nicola Keegan

8.26.09

“Running takes me out of the city and into nature, which does something to me that most man-made stuff can’t. I pass the Brazilian transsexuals, wave, pass the mean forest cops on their big horses, salute, pass that one old guy with the terry-cloth headband, wave. I stop next to that pond with those two nasty swans and I hang upside down and stretch until my head feels as alive and as heavy as an electric watermelon.

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Jericho Brown

8.19.09

“One of the seventeen times the Supremes appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, they sang ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’ wearing earrings that weighed close to what Diana Ross weighed at the time. At some point in the song, one of Ross’s earrings dangles and falls. What does she do? She keeps singing lead, and includes in the choreography a catch you have to watch the footage several times to see. Suddenly, Diana Ross has one earring on and one in her hand. Poetry is performance. I recommend watching this to learn writing with focus...and grace.”

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Frank Giampietro

8.12.09

“Lately I’ve been writing poems on my iPhone. But I also like to write poems on Post-it notes and in my trusty sketchbook, too. Writing on various media, not letting myself get comfortable, is very helpful. I also like to send myself off into what I call coffee shop exile. Being in public spaces makes me a little edgy, which is good for my writing.

“Also, if I want to write but can't find a way in, often the best thing I can do is read any old John Ashbery book of poetry. I write almost nothing like him, but reading his work gets me leaping in interesting directions.

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Joanna Smith Rakoff

8.5.09

“I’m the least athletic person in the world—the proverbial kid picked last for teams—so what I’m about to suggest is a bit strange: Go running. Whenever I get stuck in story, unable to get my character out of the car and into his apartment, I step away from my desk, throw on shorts, and hit the pavement. I hate sports. Truly. But there’s something about the rhythm of running—and the complete solitude it allows—that calms me down and allows me to work through whatever problems I’m encountering on the page.”

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Kristin Palm

7.29.09

“I am very interested in cities and places, and in having conversations with them. Research and lists are big for me. Often, lists I make become poems unto themselves. Notes from my research make some of the strongest lines in my poems, I’ve found, or, like the lists, turn into poems of their own. I began my book The Straits in response to the sparse but lyrical narration in a Russian film, Palms, so I find listening for refrains and cadences—anywhere and everywhere—then responding to them highly evocative.

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