Tuesday, April 30, bestselling writer Sloane Crosley stops by to talk her latest release Look Alive Out There, a collection of essays that is full of the hilarity and heartfelt observations you’ve come to expect from Crosley. She’ll be joined by writer and Newcity Lit Editor Toni Nealie for a chat that is sure to make you laugh, make you smile, and, who knows, maybe even make you want to write your own stories!
Crosley graciously took time to answer some questions we had about writing and reading. We covered all the heavy-hitting questions, from writing inspirations to reading recommendations, as well as the merits and drawbacks of dried mangoes. Read on to learn more about Crosley and see her in person right here at the AWM on Monday, April 15. Tickets available here.
American Writers Museum: What inspires you to write?
Sloane Crosley: Sometimes a painting or an interaction. Travel. Mostly other writing. Many writers are finicky about what they’ll read while they’re working on a book. I used to be this way, but I’ve become more lax over the years. If my issue is that I read Cheever or Sontag and start aping them, well…let’s jump off that not-so-problematic bridge when we come to it, shall we?
AWM: How does your approach to essay writing differ from novel writing? How are they similar?
SC: Well, they both involve me gathering up the courage and the snacks needed to turn on my computer. Beyond that, on a sentence level, they’re not that different. This is a scandal to admit, I realize. But with the exception of character dialogue, my writing style doesn’t change too much. And, even if it did, there are only so many ways to say, “He crossed the room and opened the door.” That’s going to look the same in an essay as it does in a novel. That said, it’s a completely different mentality, fiction vs. non-fiction, with completely different challenges. Building a world from scratch and making everything up is no easy feat. But neither is telling the truth and mining your memories in a way that is as loyal as you can be to the past.
AWM: Is there any certain thing, such as a snack, that helps you get in the writing mindset?
SC: I write in the same green velvet chair in my apartment or else I write in bed when I wake up. I snack a lot but I don’t have one I need. I have snacks I don’t need. I can’t keep dried mango in the house, for instance. I will eat the whole package in one sitting and get a stomach ache. And if it’s the dried mango rubbed in chili powder? Forget it. I inhale it.
AWM: If you could meet one American writer from the past, who would it be and why?
SC: Probably Mark Twain. I don’t love talking about humor, it’s like sticking a pin in a drop of water and expecting it to stay. But I’d love to talk to Twain about it and his life. I would love to just listen.
AWM: What was your favorite book as a child?
SC: This is hard, maybe because “child” is a large swath of one’s life. I’d say Through The Looking Glass, The Secret Garden, The Wind in The Willows and The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler.
AWM: What are you reading now? What should we be reading?
SC: I just finished the second Lucia Berlin story collection, Tara Westover’s Educated and Andrew Ridker’s The Altruists. I’m midway through Hilary Mantel’s Giving Up The Ghost. You could do worse than to read that.
AWM: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
SC: Work more, read Q&A’s less. Don’t post #amwriting anywhere ever because you are, inherently, not doing that. Take nice walks. Read what you love, not what you think you should love. Start young.