Tag Archives: writing fiction

Re-cap of the 2009 Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop: My Favorite Quotes of the Week

Okay folks, as promised, here’s a little more for you on the Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop ~ namely, my favorite lines, quotes and anecdotes (written in Workshop schedule chronological order only–no favoritism is represented here).


*  “The lover is the writer, the reader is the beloved.” – Brenda Shaughnessy, poet
* ‘The essence of the person lies mystically in the name.’ – roughly quoted from B.S.
*  “If you are afraid of something or running away from something–that’s what you should be writing about” – B.S.

* Establish your writerly self as a person with “good taste” that the reader will want to follow/partake of.  The reader is trying to improve him/herself by their association with the authors they read.  Don’t let your readers down. – taken from workshop discussion with Walter Kirn

* “I like to think about prose as an athletic event.” – W.K. re: choosing which style of prose you’re most talented in, and “competing” in that style.

* Manuscripts mustbe as polished as possible before submitting to literary agents or editors–this represents you taking yourself seriously as a writer.  (Taken from panel discussion with Denise Shannon, Bonnie Nadell, Besty Lerner and Julie Barer)

*”Obsession fills our spiritual need.” – Steve Almond

* There are moments in your life that snag your attention.  Don’t over analyze why  you can’t let go of those moments.  Just honor your attention toward/obsession with those moments and write about them. (take from lecture: Obsession A New Musk by Steve Almond

*”How does the thin-skinned writer become a thick-skinned author?” – Literary Agent, Betsy Lerner in her lecture on Query Letters to Agents

* “Endings are just beginnings returned in new form.” – Walter Kirn

* “Foreshadowing is the promise the reader will be told a story.” – W.K.

* “Be true to your trance.” – W.K. discussing the “zone we, as writers do and must get into for effective writing.

* “Editing is a cost-benefit analysis.” – Keith Lee Morris

* “Beginnings are shadows that are cast across the entire story.” – Walter Kirn

* “A beginning is an act of bravado.” – W.K.

* “The beginning has to do more than anything else in the book…accept, maybe, the end.” – W.K.

* If dialog feels like it’s coming out poorly onto the page, perhaps it’s because you don’t know your characters well enough. (take from lecture by Keith Lee Morris on writing dialog.

*”Memoir rightly belongs to the imaginative world because it is a product of memory–it becomes a creation of the mind.” – David Shields

* “Great art is an analysis of mixed feelings.’ – D.S.

* The only thing worse than boredom is fear of boredom.  Omission is a form of creation.” – D.S.

* Good characters are not “built,” they are “revealed.” – from Bret Anthony Johnston’s lecture on Writing Exercises – Character.

* The fewer the characters…the easier the story becomes to write.  A narrative is like climbing a steep mountain while wearing a backpack…each additional character adds to the weight of the pack.  (taken from above-referenced lecture by B.A.J.)

* “Never ask a reader to do more work than you [the author] are willing to do.” – B.A.J.

* Johnston’s assessment of good vs. bad characters:
       Good characters are 51% good and 49% bad.  Bad characters are 51% bad and 49% good.

* The writer’s job, according to B.A.J.: “Make the reader want something and then make them wait for it [via narrative arc obstacles, etc.]”


A room once occupied: now empty.
A house once full: vacant.
Water dries.
Soap suds pop.  Bubbles drain.
People leave.
                                                   ~ KMH

From discomfort comes ill-ease.
From ill-ease: dis-ease.
Dis-ease precedes disease
and from that: personal growth.
Thus is the experience of communcal bathing.
                                                                                  ~ KMH

Thank you Tin House!!!


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