it feels like an eventful week:

01.  went to see nell zink with jonathan franzen on wednesday night, and, in his introduction to nell zink, franzen said something lovely, “writers know who they are and then it’s just a matter of the rest of us catching up.”  (this is not a word-for-word quote.)

02.  heard marilynne robinson on thursday, then again on friday and will be seeing her again on monday and wednesday.  yup.  more on her and gilead, home, and lila soon.  tidbits from her appearance at mcnally jackson on thursday (these are not necessarily word-for-word quotes):

-  robinson:  first person isn’t ideal for getting into a character.
galassi:  because it’s a performance?
robinson:  because people are so often wrong about themselves.

-  i tend to use sacramental expressions in my fiction as gestures of human care.  they’re essentially pointing to things that are essential to the human experience.

-  ”… the middle west, of which i knew nothing, except that you fly over it.”

-  people aren’t good at being honest with themselves, and societies aren’t either.

-  it’s rare to find anyone who’s actually read the old testament, but everyone knows what to think about the old testament.

03.  went to the hachette book club brunch today and felt very young and very asian.  loved the literary fiction panel — tidbits:

re:  beginnings
edan lepucki said she finds beginnings exciting because they come before you know all the problems.  the book seems perfect then.  joshua ferris said that the problem is that the beginning isn’t the beginning you’re writing — you throw out so much, and that’s also time you’re throwing out, which can feel anguishing, except you realize that it still all leads somewhere so it isn’t time wasted.

re:  likability
lepucki said that likability isn’t necessarily a question, and, apparently, she has an article coming up in the millions about likability because what is with people and “likability,” especially when it comes to female characters?  (okay the question bit might be coming more from me because i hate the whole “likability” crap.  no one makes a big deal about unlikable male characters, and i oftentimes feel that the female characters who are human and are displaying human traits and human vulnerability and basically just human humanity are written off as “unlikable.”)

re:  writing
she also said that, sometimes, writing can feel so awful that it’s better to think of writing as a gift you’re giving someone.  like an act of generosity.  i loved that because, ohhhh, writing can feel so awful sometimes, and that’s a lovely perspective.

re:  writers not reading when writing
susan choi and meg wolitzer talked about this at the paperback launch of the interestings, too, and i can’t seem to find the notes i took that night (i thought i typed them up on evernote, but i guess not?) — but wolitzer said that she isn’t afraid of her writing being derivative or being influenced, which is the reason some writers give for not reading while writing.  i don’t personally subscribe to that because i tend to think (pretty strongly) that all writers should be reading.  i loved how lepucki put it, “reading voraciously makes me feel human,” which comes around to feed the writing.

re:  edits/criticism
ferris said he approaches them in good faith, that everyone (his editor, his wife, &c) are working in good faith and wanting the best for a book.  

(but i suppose the big thing that made this a big week is that i sent my manuscript to my reader last night, and she’s being so incredibly generous and awesome and reading it over the weekend and skyping me notes tomorrow.  T_T  there’s still quite a bit of work to do on these stories, but they’re shaping up nicely, in good enough shape that i finally think they’d benefit from a fresh set of eyes!  my book baby is getting there!)