Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between

Off the Page: Writers Talk About Beginnings, Endings, and Everything In Between

edited by Carole Burns

It turns out that authors don’t get their ideas from the Idea Store! And if you’re a writer, you can’t worry about Grandma reading the sex scene you just finished. I know these things because I had a long and fascinating conversation with Carole Burns, editor of the Washington Post website chat devoted to writers. She found herself with so many great transcripts that she sat down and turned them into a book — writers talking about writing. She divided the quotes up into chapters on creating characters, finding inspiration when it hides from you, and (cover your eyes, grandma) writing about sex.  There are quotes from everyone from Michael Cunningham (The Hours) to Shirley Hazzard (The Great Fire) to Walter Mosley (Blonde Faith) and about 40 others.

Also on hand were writers Mary Kay Zuravleff (who has the best voice — if the little book thing doesn’t work out she could totally be a DJ) and Carolyn Parkhurst, who was kind enough to come in to XM despite her cold. We wound up talking for so long that I’ll be featuring Off the Page this week and next week as well. Obviously we couldn’t cover every quote in this fascinating book so I encourage you to pick it up and look for yourself. Even if you never write anything deeper than a grocery list you’ll be bound to find something to inspire you.

Carole’s website has transcripts of Off the Page chats:

Here’s Mary Kay Zuravleff’s site:

And Carolyn Parkhurst’s site as well:

Off the Page — part 2

I’m Kim Alexander and this is Fiction Nation. This week my show features the second part of my conversation with the editor of Off the Page, Carole Burns. Off the Page began as live chat on the Washington Post website. Carole talked to a lot of writers, and they all had interesting and often contradictory things to say about their job — the job of telling a story. The quotes were too good to let them vanish into cyberspace, so Carole edited them down, arranged them by topic, and so we have this week’s book.

In the first part, Carole, along with writers Mary Kay Zuravleff and Carolyn Parkhurst, talked about dealing with that blank white screen — everyone has a different way of getting started, but most agree that the first page is a little intimidating no matter how many times you’ve done it.  We also talked about creating characters, which some writers fashion after people they know, and others use little pieces of themselves. We agreed that writing about love is harder than writing about sex, and we tried to figure out how you know when you’re done. Mary Kay swears by the smell test — when the smells are right, it’s time to put down your pen.

Here’s Carole’s site, where you can find transcripts of a lot of the author conversations we talk about in this interview:

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