Sunday, July 22, 2012

A conversation with one of my favorite authors: Meg Wolitzer

Rena Says:

I need some words of encouragement, if you have a sec. I’m trying to write a story for a competition, and as the deadline nears, my insecurities douse my passion and confidence. I’ve been re-reading The Ten-Year Nap for inspiration (even better the second time, btw).

One of my favorite lines–for there are many dog-eared pages and highlighted chunks with crayon or pen, whatever I have on hand–is “is there some logical connection between handling silverware and possessing ovaries?”

This line, the whole conversation it is nestled into could be a snippet of my main character’s naive and regular daily life. And it makes me wonder, how can I ever capture the universal struggles of everyday women the way you do it, so succintly and condensed into the moments that define us.

How do you do it?
The devil? Do you still have his business card?

But seriously, did you ever have insecurities like this? How did you slay them?

Dear Rena,

I just now saw your note. Thank you for your kind words. As for me and the devil and his business card… I guess I would say to you what I say to my students: I think if you marinate in something long enough, you realize what it is you really want to write. And the feeling of “wanting” to write something probably comes unconsciously from already knowing that you have a bit of something to say about that thing. Perhaps it might be helpful not to think in the broadest terms (universal struggles of women) but to think of one particular woman’s struggle, and have the faith that she is not so freakish that other women don’t share some of her concerns. Start with particulars. Who is she and why is she the way she is? The critic Laura Miller said that of the novels she’s read, the ones she remembers most seem to have something in common: someone wants something and does something.

As for insecurities, of course, of course. I don’t know that they’re ever slain, but they’re simply ridden over and perhaps eventually flattened like roadkill, through lots and lots of work and many drafts. I wish you good luck with your work and this contest. Write as fully and strongly as you can. I often feel: if not now, when?

All best,

Meg W

Thanks, Meg. Couldn't have come at a more perfect hour. =) 

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