Art Kavanagh

Criticism, fiction and other writing

Writers on writing

A week ago I posted a list of short stories that can be read online. The list had its origin as Mix collection that is presumably no longer accessible because I’ve deactivated my Mix account. One of my other collections on Mix — the one that Mix itself recommended to new sign-ups — was “Writers on writing”. As that collection, too, has — or ought to have — disappeared with my account, I’ve extracted from it the links that seemed to me to be most worth keeping. Here they are:

Elisa Wouk Almino Thinks Novels Are Overrated in Electric Literature

Kevin Barry on the need to sustain our literature

Sara Baume, ‘I was so tired of my laptop, I felt compelled to work with my hands

In comparison to making sculpture, the practice of writing is magnificently compact and easily dispersed. It allowed me to say precisely what I meant in a form understood by everybody. And yet, by the end of book two, I was so tired of my own voice and the things I had said and meant with it. I longed to silently make small objects that were concerned with form, feel and colour; that I could touch, hold and smell; that nobody else saw or cared about.

Tim Carmody, The problem of writing and money
A thoughtful and realistic response to Sandra Newman’s piece in Electric Literature about the poverty of writers

Naoise Dolan sees nothing wrong with writers mining their own lives for material but that’s not what she does. She enjoys making things up.

Ben Dolnick, Why you should start binge-reading right now
This is a writer on reading:

To that point, I’d been reading the book the way I usually read books, which is to say in five- or 10-minute snatches before bed …
But in book after book, if you do push on through one chapter break, and then on through the chapter break after that, something amazing happens. Subplots that would once have been murky to the point of incomprehensibility (what was the deal with that dead sea captain again?) step into the light. Little jokes and echoes, separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages, come rustling out of the text forest. A writer’s voice — Grace Paley at her slangy best, Nicholson Baker at his hypomanic craziest — starts to seep into and color the voice of your innermost thoughts.

Louise Doughty on the moment when “a slowly swirling mass of ideas”, accumulated search and unconnected scenes coalesced into the kernel of Apple Tree Yard

There is such a thing as talent: Elizabeth Hardwick on writing

Joanna Hershon, Writerly Lessons From an Early ’90s Improv Class in Literary Hub

Bohumil Hrabal remembers what it was to fall in love with literature

How Kazuo Ishiguro used dream techniques to write his most polarizing novel

Rosemary Jenkinson, Find yourself a muse (preferably nude but clothed will do) — and 9 more writing tips:

If there is one piece of work that should showcase your creative flair, it’s your bio … It’s not lying; it’s being fictional with the truth …

Elizabeth Sulis Kim, Returning to analog: Typewriters, notebooks and the art of letter-writing

Ian McEwan, Some notes on the novella

Mary Morrissy and the practice of writing

Ottessa Moshfegh, “I remember thinking his waning vitality could be used to my advantage
As a 17-year-old student about to go to college, Ottessa Moshfegh approached a famous male writer for advice. He was willing to give it — in exchange for veneration … and sex

My ambition was not to be successful — to publish books and be renowned, rich and powerful, like Dicks; I wanted, truly, to use my writing to rise up to a higher realm of existence, away from the stupidity I saw in my classmates, teachers and parents, or on television and on the subway.

Tim Parks, Do we write differently on a screen?

You realize that the people reading what you have written will also be interrupted. They are also sitting at screens, with smartphones in their pockets … They won’t be drawn into the enchantment of the text. So should you change the way you write accordingly? Have you already changed, unwittingly?

Steven Pinker’s 13-tweet guide to writing well
Not just the usual clichés; there’s some genuinely useful advice here. I particularly like 8 to 10 inclusive.

Chris Power, Alice Munro helped me finish my story and I didn’t even know it

Dragging the story’s mechanics into the light became what I liked best about it, and made a strength of the problem that had for so long defeated me: where does the line between truth and fiction lie? …
Coming across someone else’s use of the same structure that had taken me months to arrive at would have been one thing. What really disturbed me, though, was that I had read the story, forgotten it, and then unwittingly plagiarized it.

Suzanne Rivecca, If I have to die on a Zoom call, I’d rather be talking about books
The author is reluctant to accept a perfect-seeming job with a book festival while hating the job she already had in a nonprofit that felt more like a startup.

Emily Temple, Author Photos: A Taxonomy in Literary Hub

It’s quite a short list, as you see. I discarded many links to pieces that now seem more ephemeral or less significant than they did when I originally added them to the collection. Probably, I had been too liberal with my inclusions because I wanted to post to the collection regularly, and avoid the appearance of having stalled, or slipped into irrelevance. I hope you find something useful in what’s left.

Posted by Art on 25-Oct-2020.