Advice Famous Authors Gave Me: My Literary Week

I’m calling this week Literary Week. Almost every day something majorly literary is happening. It started on Monday.

Monday: Had class with guest speaker and literary agent Jenny Brown from Jenny Brown Associates to give all of us aspiring writers advice about how to get published. Later that night went to a poetry reading with Karen Solie and John Burnside, the first of whom is one of Canada’s most prominent poets and the latter of whom is one of my fiction lecturers. He also writes great poetry. They both read new stuff and I strongly urge you to keep your eye out for a new one of Solie’s about rifles. Fantastic.

Wednesday (today): At 5.15pm attended a reading and discussion with Orange Prize winner Linda Grant where she discussed her book The Clothes on Their Backs. Her talk was amazing. The following are some of my favorite snippets and some great writerly advice:

“Nakedness is against the law but starvation isn’t.”

“Dickens is going, ‘You think you’re a writer?'” on why she won’t write in her office–the books stare down at her

“I don’t know what’s going to happen to these people next…I’ll try this…well, that didn’t work…I’ll try this…” on her writing process

“Writers disappear into reading and writing because the real world isn’t quite enough fo us.”

recommends writing as soon as possible after waking because “you’re as close as possible to the dream state”

and my favorite: “The power of great literature is to go beneath the surface of the real.”

At 7pm I went to another famous author’s talk. This time it was Iain (M) Banks, who writes what he calls “mainstream” novels but his first and most passionate love is for writing science fiction. For writing such dark material, he was hilarious. He also looked like a skinnier, happier George Lucas. Some fun snippets from his session:

“The reason I’m not a proper writer is because I like surprise endings…and explosions.”

“Write what you know–how unambitious…stretch yourself and your reader.”

Said science fiction is the most important literary genre because it’s the only one that “deals with change in humanity.”

“I’m a writer and these are just stories.”


Thursday: 2 hour masterclass with Linda Grant where I’m guessing she’ll be teaching us how to be absolutely brilliant writers who make lots and lots of money and become recognizably amazing and famous.

Friday: Book launch at Waterstone’s for Douglass Dunn, poet extraodinaire and founder of the creative writing program here at St Andrews. A chance to applaud his talent and rub elbows with other literary folk.

So really, the only un-literary day this week was Tuesday. Oh Tuesday. Poor, poor Tuesday. Nobody loves you. Least of all the literati.

Summation of Advice:

Write in the morning; write all the time; write and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and don’t do it in green crayon for pete’s sake; to write what I don’t know, especially if it’s what’s going to happen next in my own story; all writers are crazy.

That last bit’s not really advice, but definitely true.


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