Lorrie Moore On Writing
UPDATE: Witty, wry, and pithy June 2010 audio interview with Lorrie Moore (approx. 30 minutes) by John Mullan at The Guardian Book Club. Lots about the role of melancholy and illness in the short story, sense of place, tense, and point of view. Mullan is a great foil for Moore. Highlights: Minute 18: Audience question about Moore's novels prompts interesting comments on her experience of writing A Gate At The Stairs. Minute 22: Moore shares her short story construction method: write the first third, jump ahead to the ending, and then connect them by writing the middle (fascinating!); the importance of first lines for establishing a voice in stories and novels; and the job of endings, which is "to shine back over the story and give it its meaning."
A Gate At The Stairs
If you'd like to hear Lorrie Moore talk about her novel A Gate At The Stairs, and if you're interested in Moore's writing process, you should download Barbara DeMarco-Barrett's October 2009 audio interview with Moore for Pen on Fire's "Writers on Writing" podcast (if it's no longer available on iTunes, you can listen to Moore online at the Pen On Fire archive). The 56-minute conversation provides insight into Moore's Midwestern inspiration for A Gate At The Stairs, and touches on some of the novel's characters and themes without spoiling the plot. I think this is the best of all the audio interviews recorded with Moore during her promotion of A Gate At The Stairs, and it's far from narrow. She reads an "autumnal scene" from the end of the novel at Minutes 14-18. (If you'd like to listen to Lorrie Moore read a complete short story, check out the links to "Paper Losses" on this earlier Litagogo post.)
Insider Literary Thrills
There are plenty of vicarious literary thrills in this Pen on Fire podcast, including some chortling over the time Moore's transcendent short story collection, Birds of America (a late 20th century classic), defied its amuse-bouche category and spent three weeks on The New York Times bestseller list (Minute 26), plus a tell-all segment on one of the mysteries of the elite literary universe: how chapters from novels become "stories" in The New Yorker (Minute 20).
Writing Tips from the Virtuoso of Voice
DeMarco-Barrett and Moore both teach writing, and Pen on Fire's audience contains many writers, so there's plenty of craft chat about so-called writer's block, first drafts, the revision impulse, simile and metaphor, plotting and surprise, voice (a very interesting segment at Minutes 12-14), finding time to write as a single mom, the MFA or not-to-MFA question, and the immortal novel vs. short story necessarianisms (Minute 27).
Here is the heart of Lorrie Moore's MFA advice for free: "Talent is not the problem, the problem is getting kids to work very hard and write about the right stuff, to write about something that is really going to catch fire with them," (Minute 36) and "Never write from something that isn't from the very center of your mind" (Minute 53).
FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of A Gate At The Stairs from the publisher when I reviewed the novel for IdentityTheory.com. The Pen on Fire podcast is free.