"David Foster Wallace said somewhere that writer’s block is always a case of the writer holding artificially high standards for herself. Because, when you think of it, nobody gets Typer’s Block. The block starts when you start judging what is ABOUT TO COME OUT and you go: Oh, no you don’t. That = block. So I think one good antidote is just to type a bunch of shit, basically, knowing that you can (and must) go back through and edit all of that, and find some gold in it - even if it’s just a phrase…"

George Saunders on writers block and his writing process

Questions? → Ask George Saunders

'Watcher'

— After Katrina, 2005

At first, there was nothing to do but watch.
For days, before the trucks arrived, before the work
of cleanup, my brother sat on the stoop and watched.

He watched the ambulances speed by, the police cars;
watched for the looters who’d come each day
to siphon gas from the car, take away the generator,

the air conditioner, whatever there was to be had.
He watched his phone for a signal, watched the sky
for signs of a storm, for rain so he could wash.

At the church, handing out diapers and water,
he watched the people line up, watched their faces
as they watched his. And when at last there was work,

he got a job, on the beach, as a watcher.
Behind safety goggles, he watched the sand for bones,
searched for debris that clogged the great machines.

Riding the prow of the cleaners, or walking ahead,
he watched for carcasses - chickens mostly, maybe 
some cats or dogs. No one said remains. No one

had to. It was a kind of faith, that watching:
my brother trained his eyes to bear
the sharp erasure of sand and glass, prayed

there’d be nothing more to see.

Natasha Trethewey, the new U.S. Poet Laureate. Her book “Beyond Katrina” chronicles the personal accounts of how people of the Gulf Coast region, including her family, have lived with the treat and consequences of natural disaster for generations.

"We were trained as writers with the idea that literature is something that can change reality. That it’s not just a very sophisticated entertainment, but a way to act. Today these ideas have disappeared practically among the new generation. Now the young writers consider that it’s too pretentious to think that literature can produce this kind of thing. But when I was young, when I started to write, we were totally convinced that literature was a kind of weapon,” Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa
—What do you think the role of literature is today? How has it changed?

"We were trained as writers with the idea that literature is something that can change reality. That it’s not just a very sophisticated entertainment, but a way to act. 

Today these ideas have disappeared practically among the new generation. Now the young writers consider that it’s too pretentious to think that literature can produce this kind of thing. 

But when I was young, when I started to write, we were totally convinced that literature was a kind of weapon,” Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa


What do you think the role of literature is today? How has it changed?

"I’m not interested in your girlfriends and your grandmother. You don’t know anything. Write about something you have never, ever thought about before."

Toni Morrison on ‘writing about what you know’

"I withheld color from all the book. Everything is either black or white or not mentioned, until he gets home, and then those cotton fields are pink before they turn, and then the trees. And he even says, were the trees always this deep green? So, all the palette is pushed toward the end. So the reader feels that comfort and safety of home."

Toni Morrison on her latest novel “Home,” which chronicles the story of soldier Frank Money, who returns home after his service in the Korean War only to be greeted with both the institutional and casual realities of daily prejudice.

(Full interview here)

"There are moments, rare and powerful, in which a writer long vanished from the face of the earth seems to stand in your presence and speak to you directly, as if he bore a message meant for you above all others."

Stephen Greenblatt, “The Swerve: How the World Became Modern,” on how the discovery of Lucretius’ “On the Nature of Things” helped change the direction of human thought

Ray Suarez on the legacy of writer Carlos Fuentes

(Read more)

What is a poet laureate in the 21st century?

Carol Ann Duffy: The first laureates were spin doctors really that were employed by the monarch to write poems saying how great the king was.

"There are a lot of problems in the book world — the most significant of them is that it’s harder and harder for writers to make a living. I’m determined to…make enough money to pay writers a decent wage…The idea that people write on the internet for free has been a terrible thing for writers and a terrible thing for the culture," said Tom Lutz, founding publisher and editor-in-chief of the new Los Angeles Review of Books

The Los Angeles Review of Books, an exclusively digital publication, is the latest entry into the world of books and publishing. The site offers reviews and essays by well-known writers, video and audio of author interviews and events, reader forums and a searchable database of books, authors and their publishers.

Listen to the interview with Tom Lutz on literature for a general audience and how the publishing world has changed.

UPDATE: Here’s tonight’s debate
For the first time since 1977, no Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded this year when none of the three finalists won a majority of a jury’s vote. Best-selling authors Ann Patchett and Lev Grossman speak with Jeffrey Brown about the integrity of the judging process and the Pulitzers’ power as a sales tool for booksellers.

—-
Watch it go down at 6:44* p.m. ET (live stream here) as we discuss why there was no Pulitzer winner for fiction this year. 
(More on other winners here)

UPDATE: Here’s tonight’s debate

For the first time since 1977, no Pulitzer Prize for fiction was awarded this year when none of the three finalists won a majority of a jury’s vote. Best-selling authors Ann Patchett and Lev Grossman speak with Jeffrey Brown about the integrity of the judging process and the Pulitzers’ power as a sales tool for booksellers.

—-

Watch it go down at 6:44* p.m. ET (live stream here) as we discuss why there was no Pulitzer winner for fiction this year. 

(More on other winners here)