Prolific Author Joyce Carol Oates Offers Writing Advice in Colloquium

Posted by at 12:42PM

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Following her reading last night, Joyce Carol Oates doled out writing (and life) advice as part of the more intimate colloquium this morning.
Oates began with, ended with, and repeatedly emphasized throughout a quote by Bernard Malamud: “Write your heart out.” She drew heavily upon her past experiences as a writer–one of the most prolific of the modern era–to provide advice and debunk common misconceptions held by young writers.
Joyce Carol Oates on writing, from the colloquium:
On happiness:
“Happy people are great to have around–everyone wants to marry a cheerful person–but you don’t want to be only happy. It’s just not very exciting.”


On competition:
“Writing is not a race, and nobody really wins.” She added, “I guess its true that a lot of people can lose.”
On reading:
“Read widely, without discrimination.”
On writing a timeless piece:
“Write for your own time: don’t write for posterity, it doesn’t exist. You are writing for your own generation, people a little older than you, and people a little younger than you.”

On inhibition:
“People are often very inhibited when trying to write. Writing under a pseudonym, an androgynous one like J.D. Salinger, can be very liberating, especially for young women writers.”
On the work of others:
“Give yourself up in admiration of another’s work.”
On structure:
“The first sentence cannot be written until the last sentence has.”

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