steve almond

Art arises from loss. I wish this weren’t the case. I wish that every time I met a new woman and she rocked my world, I was inspired to write my ass off. But that is not what happens. What happens is we lie around in bed eating chocolate and screwing. Art is what happens when things don’t work out, when you’re licking your wounds. Art is, to a larger extent than people would like to think, a productive licking of the wounds.
But the real life of a writer resides in showing up at the keyboard every day, with the necessary patience and mercy, and making the best decisions you can on behalf of your people. It’s a slow process. It often feels hopeless, more like an affliction than an art form.
Most of us will have to find our readers one by one, in other words, and against considerable resistance. If anything qualifies us as heroic, it’s that private perpetual struggle.
Put down that magazine, soldier. Forget about the other guy. Remember who you are.
—  Steve Almond
How to open a story

Steve Almond on why many of his favorite opening paragraphs don’t open in media res:

More recently, in medias res has come to signify the idea that a writer is best to open a story—or novel or essay or memoir—with dramatic action rather then exposition. As a teacher of writing I see this constantly, and ninety percent of the time I’m hopelessly lost by the third paragraph…

…a strong opening doesn’t have to grab the reader by the throat and throw them into the middle of the action. In fact, all things considered, most readers would rather not be grabbed at all. Instead, we are often most drawn in by those authors who can calmly promise us a compelling story and invite us along for the ride.

Reminds me of what Vonnegut said:

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Emphasis mine.

I refuse to beat my chest over a grief that belongs to others, or shout about how terrorists messed with the wrong city. I find no virtue in braying over the capture of a teenager whose toxic grievances, and misguided loyalties, led to such senseless ruin. It is sad, all of it. The greater sadness for me is that America feels increasingly like a nation united by spectacles of atrocity. We pay attention, and open our hearts, only when violence of a random and gaudy enough variety strikes. But it shouldn’t take such calamity to awaken our decency, nor our devotion to causes of genuine moral progress. That, frankly, should be the price of our citizenship.
—  Steve Almond, at TNR
In his extreme youth Stoner had thought of love as an absolute state of being to which, if one were lucky, one might find access; in his maturity he had decided it was the heaven of a false religion, toward which one ought to gaze with an amused disbelief, a gently familiar contempt, and an embarrassed nostalgia. Now in his middle age he began to know that it was neither a state of grace nor an illusion; he saw it as a human act of becoming, a condition that was invented and modified moment by moment and day by day, by the will and the intelligence and the heart.
—  John Williams, Stoner, quoted in Steve Almond’s essay about the book