Cover image for Writers on writing : collected essays from The New York times ; introduction by John Darnton.
Writers on writing : collected essays from The New York times ; introduction by John Darnton.
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Times Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiv, 268 pages ; 21 cm
Subject Term:
Added Uniform Title:
New York times.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN137 .W734 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Today's most celebrated writers explore literature and the literary life in an inspirational collection of original essays.

By turns poignant, practical, and hilarious, Writers on Writing brings together more than forty of contemporary literature's finest voices. Drawn from the distinguished New York Times column of the same name, it features essays by an extraordinary group of prizewinning and bestselling contributors.

The pieces range from reflections on the daily craft of writing to the intersection of art's and life's consequential moments. Authors discuss what impels them to write: creating a sense of control in a turbulent universe; bearing witness to events that would otherwise be lost in history or within the writer's soul; recapturing a fragment of time. Others praise mentors and lessons, whether from the classroom, daily circumstances, or the pages of a favorite writer. For anyone interested in the art and rewards of writing, Writers on Writing offers an uncommon and revealing view of a writer's world.

Contributors include Russell Banks, Saul Bellow, E. L. Doctorow, Louise Erdrich, Richard Ford, Carl Hiaasen, Jamaica Kincaid, Barbara Kingsolver, Sue Miller, Walter Mosley, Joyce Carol Oates, Marge Piercy, Annie Proulx, Carol Shields, Jane Smiley, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., and Elie Wiesel.

Author Notes

The New York Times is the winner of 89 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The New York Times is based in New York City, and has 16 news bureaus in the New York region, 11 national news bureaus and 26 foreign news bureaus.

The New York Times has a 12-month average circulation, which includes 1,131,400 circulated weekdays and 1,682,100 on Sundays.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

Unlike many assemblages of previously published works, this collection of 41 essays from the New York Times's "Writers on Writing" column is more than the sum of its parts. Just as Times culture editor Darnton hoped when he devised the series for writers to "talk about their craft," the result is a thoughtful examination of writers' concerns about the creative process and the place of literature in America. Appropriately for works commissioned for a major newspaper, the essays are immediately engaging and compelling all the way through. Some writers accomplish these ends through a good story, as does Russell Banks writing on the limits of memory and his lost chance at a career in crime. Or they are darkly entertaining, as is Carolyn Chute as she talks about obstacles in trying to switch from "life mode to writer mode." Sara Paretsky compels with her Dickensian belief in the value of writing for people "who feel powerless and voiceless in the larger world." There's also the sheer comfort of recognizing known voices: the seriousness of Mary Gordon, the combativeness of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., the sting of Joyce Carol Oates. As steeped in writing as this book is, it is not a manual: advice includes only general rules to observe well and write regularly and axioms from writers like William Saroyan, who counsels, "There is no how to it, no how do you write, no how do you live, how do you die." Overall, the writers' pensiveness and amity make for a thought-provoking yet reassuring read a good bedside book. Fans of writers-on-writing anthologies and close readers of the New York Times who may have bypassed these essays for the immediate payoff of a front-page headline should pause to enjoy this rich collection. (May 1) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Pulitzer Prize winner Darnton is the New York Times culture editor and the instigator of one of the finest series of literary essays found in newsprint, the column "Writers on Writing," which is now, hallelujah, preserved in book form. Darnton conceived of the idea while he was writing his first novel and struggling with matters of craft, art, and intent. He sensed that readers, many of whom wish they were writers, would enjoy reading about writers' lives, and his subsequent invitations to stellar literary talents to write about writing resulted in piquant, bracing, and virtuosic essays that are as much about life as they are about creativity. Russell Banks explains that writing saved him from a life of crime. Carolyn Chute and Richard Ford ponder the necessity of not writing. Mary Gordon praises paper and pens. David Mamet celebrates genre fiction. Alice Hoffman writes of writing with cancer. Barbara Kingsolver muses on the challenge of writing about sex. And Scott Turow marvels about how the work of trial lawyers and novelists are "shockingly similar." Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

New York Times culture editor and novelist Darnton (Neanderthal, LJ 5/15/96) has compiled a collection of essays on authorship from the Times column of the same title. Contributors to this intimate, chatty collection range from literary icons Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, and Alice Walker to writers who are not yet household names. Louise Erdrich chronicles her journey with language lessons in Ojibwemowin, the language of her people. Mystery writer Sara Paretsky meets a group of harried, overworked wives of laid-off Chicago steelworkers, for whom the author's V.I. Warshawski is a source of courage and honor. Here is Mary Gordon on favorite notebooks and pens and Barbara Kingsolver, wise and entertaining as always, on the sexual content of the American novel (including her own current best seller). What emerges is a sense of the mysterious way in which fiction chooses those with not merely good stories to tell but dedication to the physical act of writing itself. Readers will want to break out the special caffeine stash for this one. Recommended for most collections. Susan A. Zappia, Paradise Valley Community Coll., Phoenix (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Adults/High School-Teens interested in writing fiction will find inspiration, advice, and humor in these 43 essays from the column of the same name, published in the Book Review section of the Times. Carl Hiaasen, whose many hilarious novels include Sick Puppy, describes the trouble he had killing off a bad guy who was threatening to take center stage in one of his novels. Barbara Kingsolver, author of the electrifying The Poisonwood Bible, admits to extreme discomfort in writing explicit sexual scenes, but does it anyway. Gail Godwin writes of crossing over into nonfiction, at the request of her publisher, and finding it challenging but not as difficult as she first thought. Mystery writer Walter Mosley advises, "If you want to be a writer, you have to write every day-" even if that means only reading over what you've written and thinking about it. And Kent Haruf, author of Plainsong, lovingly describes the room he writes in, and then goes on to describe writing his first draft blind, typing with a stocking cap pulled over his eyes. Teens will be familiar with some if not all of the writers in this collection, but all of these fine authors have something enlightening to say.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



"In a time when everything around me seemed completely out of control, when lives were being cut short and fate seemed especially cruel, I had the need to get to an ending of something. I was desperate to know how things turned out, in fiction if not in life. More than ever, more than anything, I was a writer." --Alice Hoffman, from Writers on Writing "The trial lawyer's job and the novelist's were, in some aspects, shockingly similar. Both involved the reconstruction of experience, usually through many voices. . . . But there the paths deviated. In this arena the universal trumped; there were no prizes for being rarefied or ahead of the times. The trial lawyer who lost the audience also inevitably lost the case." --Scott Turow, from Writers on Writing Excerpted from Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from the New York Times by New York Times Staff All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

IntroductionJohn Darnton
A Literary Pilgrim Progresses to the PastAndreacute and Aciman
A Novelist's Vivid Memory Spins Fiction of Its OwnRussell Banks
To Engage the World More Fully, Follow a DogRick Bass
Hidden Within Technology's Empire, a Republic of LettersSaul Bellow
Pupils Glimpse an Idea, Teacher Gets a Gold StarAnne Bernays
Characters' Weaknesses Build Fictions StrengthsRosellen Brown
How Can You Create Fiction
When Reality Comes to