Watch authors Junot Diaz and Karen Russell as they share the stage at the 2013 New Yorker Festival and offer insights into their creative process. The two speak candidly on the difficulties of writing short stories as opposed to novels and how reading became their portal to another world in their youth.
“You have to be a gem cutter in a way. You don’t have to be but what I’ve enjoyed about stories is the amount of work it takes to have them structurally work out and yet seem to be some way naturalistic.” – Junot Diaz
“Junot and I had the same trajectory where a short story expanded and was going to became a novel. It’s true, you lose sight of the land for a long time… it’s tough to sustain that world for that length of time.” - Karen Russell
Author Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, is set to hit the States next month. As fans anxiously await its arrival, watch this lovely video by animator Ilana Simons that details the award-winning author’s creative journey. From his first revelation, experienced at a ballgame, that he would become a novelist to how his writing plays with the tension between the conscious and the unconscious, this animated video visually depicts Murakami's history with eye-popping artistry.
Last Tuesday, award-winning children’s book author Walter Dean Myers passed away at the age of 76. Myers wrote more than 100 children's books and was a strong advocate of diversity in children’s literature, recently penning the article, “Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books?” for the New York Times. His list of honors includes a Michael L. Printz Award, a John Newbery Medal, and a Coretta Scott King Award for Authors. His words will live on for generations to come. Watch the author talk about his start as a young reader in this Reading Rockets video.
“I spent 10 years, 11 years in speech therapy. I couldn’t speak very well for most of my childhood life. So when I wasn’t playing ball or fighting someone I would be home with my books. My books were my friends.” – Walter Dean Myers
In today’s Bookmark This, author Bret Anthony Johnston tackles the beast that affects all writers—rejection. In a funny essay titled “On Rejection; or Dear Author, After Careful Consideration,” Bret compares writers with skateboarders learning how to perfect jumps and spins with prolonged dedication.
This Thursday marks Franz Kafka’s 131st birthday! Born in Prague, Kafka is one of the most studied author of the 20th century. Commemorate the writer’s birthday by watching this animated, award-winning short film created by Piotr Dumala. The film is based on Kafka’s diaries.
Courtesy of Open Culture.
This week, 2011 Emerging Voices Alum Jamie Schaffner reminisces about struggling to find her place in the fellowship. Jamie explains how she found her literary footing with the help of authors Janet Fitch, Bernard Cooper, Dinah Lenney, and vocal coach Dave Thomas.
“From the application to the Final Reading, the Emerging Voices Fellowship wasn’t easy. As a perfectionist with floundering confidence, I did what I always do with the unknown and difficult—gave it everything I had. This, I reasoned, was the only way I wouldn’t get distraught and lost and, in short, be stranded proverbially naked in front of esteemed authors, other fellows, my mentor, and the PEN Center USA staff.
Every week, I read every sentence in every book selected for the Author Evenings and prepared questions, so that on Mondays I’d be articulate. At the PEN Center USA office, sitting elbow-to-elbow with other fellows at a table chock-full of salami, cheeses, and crackers, we engaged with remarkable authors. I was not articulate. Before our vocal coaching, I read my excerpt out loud incessantly and set a stopwatch to ensure I wouldn’t exceed five minutes. I exceeded five minutes. The master classes, we were told, would be run like the Iowa Workshop. Meaning: don’t speak, don’t explain. Instead, just listen to the critiques. I spoke; I explained.
I was distraught. I was lost. I was naked.
Still, I soaked up the array of writing knowledge, tools, and inspiration. During our evening with Bernard Cooper, he asked about hurdles we had with our work, and, from our brief responses, he offered dead-on advice. “Sometimes you just trip on your end. You’re writing and you realize that’s it,” Cooper said to me. Afterward, I stopped chasing my novel’s ending. Months later, after writing a scene, among the endless scenes in Get the Girl, I reread what I’d written and it hit me—that was the end. Another evening, Janet Fitch inscribed my copy of Painted Black with a nod to a symbol I’d used in my own work. Encouraged, I watched for other symbols that I might deploy in my novel. When I felt claustrophobic writing in first person, I took Dinah Lenney’s suggestion and switched to second. I gained distance, as she’d said, and was able to see what the scene was about, then returned to first person. During the Hammer reading, I did what Dave Thomas, our vocal coach, said to do: nothing. Leave a gap, a silence, at the end of a crucial moment. I stopped reading, gripped the podium, unnerved, and counted to three. The audience grew quiet, waiting on my next word, as Thomas said they would.
For eight months, I read a book a week, attended an Emerging Voices workshop or event at least two times a week, wrote new pages, edited existing scenes and commented on colleagues’ writing. All the while, I was certain the day would come when I wouldn’t get nervous during an Author Evening. Or, before our next public reading, I wouldn’t have to recite my piece out loud while lying curled in the fetal position until leaving for the venue. Or, when the thick manila envelope with my mentor’s comments arrived, I wouldn’t put off opening it.
That day never came.
It’s been three years since I became an Emerging Voices Fellow and still, I’m distraught. I’m lost. I’m naked. I’m writing.”
Jamie Schaffner was born in Los Angeles, raised in Portland, Oregon and has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from UC Santa Barbara. She was a 2011 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, a UCLA James Kirkwood Award Finalist and her work appears in the anthology Best Lesbian Romance (Cleis Press, 2011). She is a member of the reading series Dirty Laundry Lit, and is completing her debut novel Get the Girl. Jamie lives in Los Angeles with her wife and their cats—Lucy, Ethel and Buffy.
Join Jamie at the Meet & Greet on July 20 at 5pm at Skylight Bookstore when current and former Emerging Voices Fellows and mentors answer your questions about the fellowship. For more information, click here.