Great writers use the darkest parts of themselves to produce great work. Here's an excerpt from a Paris Review interview with Amy Hempel on how her darkest secret became her first short story. Below, watch Nora Ephron discuss how her biggest fear sparked the creation of When Harry Met Sally.
One of the many, many things I love about writing is revision. In real life, off the page, I often struggle to discern how I truly feel and what I’m actually trying to say. I’ve been known to mess up a punch line, fumble a story told aloud or, worst of all, say things I don’t actually mean—which we all know doesn’t work out well for anybody.
At age twelve, I wrote my first collection of stories. I typed it all on a Macintosh––first generation––printed out ten copies, stuffed them in a fancy translucent cover with plastic binding, and gave them to my family and friends. I even sold a few at a garage sale for a dollar, still the most I’ve made from any story.
Did you know there are young writers just like you living above the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris? And you don't have to time-travel to the 1920s to find them. Check it out:
This week, as I write about writing, it is important to me to write about Shannon. She was my seventh grade Core teacher, which means she taught English in addition to history and social studies. She taught me about the power of words. She also taught me to believe that I could be skilled at expressing myself through them. For the past three and a half years, Shannon, who is 43, has battled cancer, and I recently learned that she is now in hospice care.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in life. But then death happens within your circle of family and friends and the every-day-living routine is broken. Death calls for a pause.