I wish I had been smart enough to come up with Joe Fassler’s book idea.
As a fellow interview lover, Joe has been writing the column By Heart for the Atlantic long enough to amass a who’s who of interview subjects. You know, people like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Elizabeth Strout, Sherman Alexie, Michael Chabon, Emma Donoghue, Mary Gaitskill… the list goes on. His topic? What piece of writing inspired you enough that you read it over and over and practically memorized it because it had such an impact on your life. Writers + book talk? Total heaven. And his new book, Light the Dark, assembles his favorite interviews on this topic.
This episode is so meta I don’t know what to do with myself. Joe has written a book about writing and reading with writers. So good! So we talked about the process of compiling the book, turning a column into a book, and what he learned from all his conversations with authors that are household names to serious readers and even those who aren’t. We also talked about what he’s learned from interviewing writers that was different from his education at the Iowa Writers Workshop. You may want to run not walk to attend Iowa after listening to this, like I did. And to add one more layer, we talked about balancing writing fiction with a day job as an editor at New Food Economy.
Not only do I recommend that you listen, I think that anyone wanting to write will adore this book. So many wise words on the process of writing and what makes a piece of writing meaningful. I can’t wait for all of you to listen to this one, and to check out Light the Dark.
Discussed in Episode 70 with Joe Fassler:
- The interviewer becomes the interviewed
- Writing for the Atlantic
- Thinking about what book changed your life
- The revision process that lead to the final book as an editor
- The problem with never seeing works in progress as would-be writers
- The preciousness of creative time and how it can shut you down
- Why writing is about time management
- Talent isn’t enough
- The importance of lowered expectations
- Learning how to interview writers
- What writers don’t want to talk about in interviews about their books
- Finding a question that would stay interesting if asked over and over
- Learning fun terms like Bell Cow
- What Joe got from his MFA
- The importance of a supportive network for writers
- How it changes the dynamic to ask questions of a writer you aren’t studying with
- What makes his day job invigorating and how day jobs often get a bad rap
- Leslie Jamison and the Empathy Exams
- How the column and the book are a love song to print