Sewanee quotes

There was so much genius floating around at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference that, even after I’d limbered up and gotten into a handwriting-workout routine, I still couldn’t write things down fast enough. (Seriously, the Alice McDermott craft lecture blew away the whole conference — several people remarked that it felt like getting a whole MFA in one hour.) But I did capture a notebookful of gems, fantastic quotes and a few paraphrased comments, and I’ve arranged and shared a selection of them here.

* * *

On the writing life:

“Smitten by make-believe, I never quite returned to real life.”

Allen Wier

“The call to write does not respect background or experience.”

Allen Wier

“Mostly you write to find out what you have to say.” 

Richard Bausch

*

On the reluctance to write and the rush to publish:

“Authors rush to publish because they’ve been working so long.” But it’s better to remember that these things take time, and it’s better to put your best work out there.

Kathy Pories, senior editor at Algonquin Books

“The thing you’re doing [writing] is incredibly hard,” so give up any idea that the work will suddenly all make sense. It won’t — it keeps getting harder, and so you have to keep working harder. And this is a good thing, because “it gets harder because you know more.”

Richard Bausch

*

On what makes great writing:

“There are only two stories: a man goes on a journey and a stranger comes to town. Voice is what makes a work memorable.”

Kathy Pories, senior editor at Algonquin Books

“The moment you try to institutionalize art, it ceases to be art.”

Allen Wier

“Literary theories will not make a writer write.”

Allen Wier

“Memory is dramatic present tense. You create it as you remember it.”

— a workshop comment from Allen Wier

“There’s flint and stone, but I don’t quite have a spark here.”

— a workshop comment from Allen Wier

“Language is the writer’s only tool — we really don’t have anything else — but our language contains within it our entire experience of the world.”

Alice McDermott

“A good story needs only a good storyteller.”

Richard Bausch

Fiction deals in truth, but it’s not the truth of philosophy but the truth of experience — “the kind of truth that stays true.”

Richard Bausch

*

On poetry:

“In poetry, you can stop the line and still say something.”

Maurice Manning

“Not every poem has to be dire and filled with tragedy.”

Maurice Manning 

*

Best line of the whole conference:

“Quit freezing it in the amber of your confounded intelligence.”

Richard Bausch on getting hung up overthinking one’s writing

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2 thoughts on “Sewanee quotes

  1. We writers are insufferable smart-arses. It would be so refreshing to find one of us who answers with a shrug of the shoulders and a spread of the hands. Just once in a while!
    😀

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