Writers

Writing Prompts for Stay-At-Home Writers: Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor

Justin Taylor was a 2019 Oregon Literary Fellowship recipient. He is the author of the story collections Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever and Flings, and the novel The Gospel of Anarchy. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Sewanee Review, among other publications. His next book, Riding with the Ghost, is a memoir forthcoming from Random House in 2020. He was recently named the director of the Sewanee School of Letters.

Justin shared with us what he’s recently been reading: “A few books I’ve read and loved recently: Hex by Rebecca Dinerstein Knight a dark, electrifying novel about obsession; I loved it. I also loved Ed Skoog’s Travelers Leaving for the City, which is brand-new from Copper Canyon, an independent poetry press based in Port Townsend, Washington. Check out this amazing stop-motion trailer he made for the book. Last but not least, Lorrie Moore’s Collected Stories, which I was lucky enough to review in the current issue of Bookforumand cannot recommend highly enough. Ordering any/all of these books from the local independent bookseller of your choice is the single best way to support booksellers, writers, and publishers. In Portland, Broadway Books is doing curbside pickup and shipping orders, and Powell’s is shipping locally and nationally. You can also use https://bookshop.org/ to discover new stores in (or beyond) your area.”

Justin also shared the following advice about writing and revising: “It seems like a lot of writers are having trouble writing right now (I know that I am) but, for whatever reason, revising manuscripts that already exist hasn’t been as challenging as producing new material. One great way to dive back in to an old manuscript—especially one you haven’t looked at in a while—is to read it out loud to yourself, making edits and taking notes as you go. Reading aloud activates multiple senses at a time: you’re reading, you’re talking, and you’re listening to yourself all at once. You’re going to catch ALL of your bad habits and writerly tics; you’ll also become much more attuned to the sound and rhythms of your sentences. This works for short stories, personal essays, poetry, book chapters–anything. Of course all of our lockdown situations are different, so some of us may have to get creative to avoid annoying our partners or being overheard by our kids. Home offices are great if you have them, but your yard, garage, toolshed, parked car, or bathtub will all serve just as well.”

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Tune in next Tuesday for a prompt from Julia Gaskill. Let us know how you’re doing, and how your writing is going, and let us know if you have a prompt to share! Email Susan Moore, Director of Programs for Writers, at susan@literary-arts.org.