A Word About Writing


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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An Interview with Joshua Henkin, by Sean Jones

Joshua Henkin is the director of Brooklyn College’s MFA program and the author of three novels, including the just-released The World Without You, a meditation on family and grieving set in a Berkshires hideaway. Henkin’s strength as a writer lies in intricately and empathetically developing his characters, even when they are treating themselves and others badly. In The World Without You, Henkin had his work cut out for him; unlike his previous book, Matrimony, which focused mostly on a single couple, The World WithoutYou features an ensemble cast of sisters, husbands, widows, and other relations, all of whom are deeply affected by an echoing tragedy and an eventful weekend.

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An Interview with Abraham Verghese, by Celia Johnson

For Abraham Verghese, it is not a question of being a doctor or a writer. He is always both. Writing is a lens to view medicine and the world, and that lens is intricate, hopeful, and compassionate. Verghese has written two memoirs and one novel, all New York Times bestsellers. In each of his books, Verghese explores sickness and healing, focusing on the human aspects of the medical field.

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An Interview with Fred Arroyo, by Robert Kralovec

Fred Arroyo is an immense talent. In works such as Western Avenue and Other Fictions and the novel The Region of Lost Names, Arroyo muses upon the effects of time and memory. Posing questions about the gritty subculture of immigrants and migrants in the United States, he writes lyrical prose that creates an intimacy with the reader. We spoke with Arroyo about how this issue’s theme of Obsession finds its way into his life and work.

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