Conversations with American Women Writers

Conversations with American Women Writers

by Sarah Anne Johnson
     
 

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Sena Jeter Naslund describes the origins of Ahab's Wife in "a vision and a voice." Ann Patchett mourns the ways in which the reality of a novel may fail to live up to her conception of it. Andrea Barrett, a winner of the National Book Award and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, nevertheless characterizes herself as "a very clumsy writer" in her early drafts.

Overview

Sena Jeter Naslund describes the origins of Ahab's Wife in "a vision and a voice." Ann Patchett mourns the ways in which the reality of a novel may fail to live up to her conception of it. Andrea Barrett, a winner of the National Book Award and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, nevertheless characterizes herself as "a very clumsy writer" in her early drafts.

The seventeen women interviewed by Sarah Anne Johnson are some of the most popular and accomplished writers at work today—award winners, critically acclaimed, popular with book clubs. Steeped in a thorough knowledge of each writer's work, Johnson's questions range from technical issues of craft to the nurturing of fictional ideas to the daily practice of writing. The authors offer insights into their own works that will delight their fans and also provide practical advice that will be cherished by aspiring writers. From Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's reflections on her experience of immigration to Lois-Ann Yamanaka's insights on the question of a character's voice, these interviews combine the personal with the professional experience of the writing life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As the ever-expanding writers-on-writing genre demonstrates, writers are often remarkably wise and generous instructors. Here, Johnson, a fiction writer herself and program coordinator of the YMCA National Writer's Voice program, interviews 17 female scribes to create 17 miniature instruction books on craft. Elizabeth McCracken, Aimee Bender, Lois-Ann Yamanaka and others recount their tussles with blank pages, time management and flat characters. Asking the writers to discuss elements of their books, Johnson also delves into the more mysterious regions of the creative process (how you know when your novel is finished, for instance). The interviews are not always tightly or even logically organized, and Johnson routinely traces over the same ground, but the questions she poses provoke thoughtful responses from her subjects, who have plenty of insight into the work they do. We learn that, other than developing good listening skills, short story writer Amy Bloom (A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You) sees no connection between her work as a therapist and her writing (writing, unlike being a therapist, "is a narcissistic event"). Novelist Sena Jeter Naslund (Ahab's Wife) candidly reveals that she struggled with plot, character and theme. Ann Patchett (Bel Canto) discusses her self-instructive practice of "plagiarizing" her favorite authors. Johnson was right to select so many subjects who teach in MFA programs: their enthusiasm for language and faith in the awesome power of revision will be encouraging to any writer at any stage of her career. B&w photos. (Jan. 30) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Frustrated by her attempts to locate collections of interviews with contemporary women authors (the notable exception being Women Writers at Work: The Paris Review Interviews), Johnson decided to put together one of her own. An experienced author interviewer and workshop instructor, she has recorded conversations (many previously published in The Writer's Chronicle) with 17 contemporary women writers-among them Ann Patchett, Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, and Sena Jeter Naslund-offering the reader an opportunity to participate in intimate and often illuminating dialog. She pulls out discussions from Patchett's crash course in opera to develop her structure for Bel Canto and Nora Okja Keller's concern about the lack of Korean representation in Asian American literature. The emphasis that writing is hard work that can take its toll emotionally serves as a common thread among the conversations as many of these women struggle to balance their writing with work and family obligations. As Elizabeth McCracken (The Giant's House) warns, "You must be prepared to break your own heart." Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Robin Imhof, Univ. of the Pacific Lib., Stockton, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781584653486
Publisher:
University Press of New England
Publication date:
12/01/2003
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
248
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)

Meet the Author

SARAH ANNE JOHNSON is a nationally recognized author interviewer and fiction writer with an M.F.A from the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her interviews have appeared in The Writer's Chronicle, The Writer, Glimmer Train Stories and are forthcoming in The Harvard Review. Her fiction has appeared in Other Voices and George Jr. She works as the Program Coordinator for the YMCA National Writer's Voice program, and teaches The Art of the Author Interview nationwide. She lives in Truro, MA. http://www.sarahannejohnson.com

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