A Word About Writing


An Interview with Sheila Heti, Jordan Tannahill, and Carl Wilson, by Marie-Hélène Westgate

Sheila Heti wrote a whole book about feeling aimless. It’s called How Should a Person Be? and for much of the book, its narrator struggles with a failed play. In real life, that play is called All Our Happy Days Are Stupid. It was Heti’s burden for twelve years.

Then the director Jordan Tannahill read How Should a Person Be? and asked Heti if the play was real, to which she said yes, at which time Tannahill read the script for All Our Happy Days Are Stupid, and made it into a musical by enlisting a cast of friends and other non-professionals, including Heti’s former husband, Carl Wilson. All Our Happy Days Are Stupid sold out its seven-night run before even opening.

Here is a chat with Sheila Heti, Jordan Tannahill, and Carl Wilson, on the eve of the premiere of this unlikely work.

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An Interview with Contributors of The Big Feminist BUT by Andrea Sparacio

The Big Feminist BUT is the conversation I’ve been waiting for. So many times I have heard, to no avail, “I am a feminist, but…” from men and women alike, and from those who agree with all that feminism encompasses, yet refuse to call themselves a feminist for fear of the label. As a feminist and artist, I appreciate that this conversation was engaged in the illustrated form and hope to see it continue into more voices for the future. I was asked by Slice to interview the following seven contributors with a question. Thank you so much to each creator and contributor, and for igniting this important and complex dialogue between us.

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An Interview with Francine Prose, by Elizabeth Blachman

Francine Prose’s 1981 novel Household Saints begins with a card game and ends with a beatification. Our heroine departs the novel as the dubious saint of ironed shirts and scrubbed floors, whispered about on hot nights in Little Italy and sanctified by a miracle of roses running up the trellis of the nuthouse. And many of Prose’s tales—though they’re filled with caustic, witty perspectives on modern life and peopled with Albanian thugs, campus adulterers, skinheads, and lonely teenagers—seem to close with a benediction. A lonely single mother experiences a shared moment of acid-trip transcendence with a former neo-Nazi, an Albanian immigrant drives an abandoned SUV across the George Washington Bridge into the winter sunlight, a young girl comes down with meningitis in an art museum and has an epiphany that allows her to see truth through the twisting lines of an El Greco painting. It’s like the Hebrew prayer at the end of the Sabbath that thanks God for separating the sacred and the profane, except that Prose knits the two together, creating a world that is a little sad, a little holy, and very funny.

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Behind the Book Deal: Interviews with Stan Parish, Julie Barer & Allison Lorentzen by Maria Gagliano

As readers, we only ever see one side of a book: the finished, polished version. Plots move along smoothly, characters are fully formed and convincing, and even endings sometimes seem to have written themselves. With the complete work in our hands, it’s hard to imagine what an earlier version of a novel could have looked like. We don’t see the weary writer who spent years revising after he thought he had a finished manuscript. We never meet the literary agent who saw the potential in the project and had the vision to realize that it needed a bit more work before it would be ready for pitching to publishers. And we forget the editor who brought the manuscript before an entire editorial board, making a case for why her company should devote its resources to launching this author’s work into the world.

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An Interview with Julia Alvarez, by Elizabeth Blachman

Julia Alvarez’s first novel, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, is in some ways a classic coming-of-age novel—but Alvarez structures the tale chronologically backwards, so the four García girls begin as adults and grow younger throughout the work. When time works in reverse, the moments of childhood, its small sins and strange discoveries, feel like the climax of who we will become. Other of her novels make similar trips—the tale of a woman in her sixties who joins Castro’s revolution is woven with the past of her mother; a woman looks back on the coming of age of her three sisters and the series of events that led to their deaths as martyrs of a brutal dictatorship. Even a nonfiction piece about quinceañeras—one of many books Alvarez has written for young adults—becomes in part a journey into the past as she remembers what it was like to grow up as a Latina in the ’60s. As Alvarez’s characters trace their way back through the episodes that crafted their identities, it becomes clear that children are creatures of the moment. Growing up is for adults. It is the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

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An Interview with Richard Bausch, by Courtney Maum

An acknowledged master of the short story form, Richard Bausch has published work in such magazines as EsquireHarper’s, the New Yorker and the Atlantic Monthly. A Georgia native, he is the author of eleven novels and eight story collections. Among his numerous accolades, Bausch has won two National Magazine Awards and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In the summer of 2011, I was fortunate enough to meet Bausch at the 2011 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. This interview took place via email in the months after the conference.

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