INTERVIEWS & SPOTLIGHTS: ANNE SANOW
Anne Sanow is the author of the story collection Triple Time, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize and the PEN New England Award for Fiction. Twice a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center, her awards include the Nelson Algren Award for Short Fiction from the Chicago Tribune and fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She currently lives and writes in New Orleans.
Read the FAWC interview with her below and register now for the 24PearlStreet course Liftoff: Getting That Story Draft Moving, October 18 – November 12, 2021
What tends to motivate your writing? Is it reading other writers’ work, experiencing something new, your natural surroundings, something else?
Place has always been a huge motivator for me; I suspect this comes from having moved around so much, and as an outsider to places, wanting to take a deep dive to see what’s underneath. That tension between knowing and not knowing is at the root of it. Reading the work of writers I admire always makes me want to raise my own bar. And nature for me is a place to figure out problems—a good long walk is more likely to untangle a narrative problem than sitting too long and pecking about at the screen.
What authors and artists inspire you the most? Has this changed throughout your writing career, or are there any you return to, time and again?
Oh, so many! They do change, but some of those who have left deep, lasting impressions are Michael Ondaatje, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Margaret Atwood, Shirley Hazzard, Michelle de Kretser, Michael Haneke, Eric Rohmer, Diego Velazquez, Edward P. Jones, W. G. Sebald, Jenny Erpenbeck, Kazuo Ishiguro, John Edgar Wideman, Alice Munro.
What sort of prompts can students expect throughout the course? Do you encourage writing prompts in general, or do they focus on the specific piece of work students are working on?
The prompts in this workshop do focus on the specific piece of work the students are sharing with the class—the point is to get a story moving from its staging area (which is often where writers get stuck in a draft) to something in action, moving forward. The prompts are flexible: there’s always more than one option, and you can either follow the prompt if you’re in the generating phase, or use it to question and maybe take a new direction if you’re already working on a draft. It’s all about finding possibilities you may not have known were there. And all the prompts are part of deepening one’s larger perspective on writing, which you can take forward to anything you’re working on in the future.
What will four weeks of class, rather than one week, offer to students?
We need four weeks for truly immersive fiction, and I welcome students writing at longer lengths, which would be tough to handle in a week’s time. We’re also all looking at drafts in progress more than once, so there’s the opportunity to get that feedback on where something started and where it’s progressed over the course of a month. We also have the weekly Zoom “coffee shop” writing sessions—which are optional, but they’re great for establishing (or re-establishing) a regular writing practice!
How will you know when you and your students have accomplished what you and they have set out to with this course?
If students get to the end of a first draft, that’s great—but more important is getting to a point of being compelled to continue. You’ve got to step off a cliff to really get a story going to interesting places, and the results of that first leap will be messy. There’s that fine point between utter chaos and the beginnings of refinement that produces a weird tingle you feel as a writer when you know you’ve gotten to a point where you simply must keep the story going, and that’s where I want students to be at the end of our month together.
Register now for Anne’s 24PearlStreet course Liftoff: Getting That Story Draft Moving, October 18 – November 12, 2021
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