• Moderator: Veronique de Turenne
  • Gina Nahai
  • Jean Hanff Korelitz
  • Andrew Sean Greer
  • Janet Fitch

It’s par for the course to mock the panel title. This happens annually. The moderator Veronique de Turenne commented on the vague title, comparing it to the names of floats in the Rose Parade. Andrew Sean Greer likened it to Prom Themes (Thought we should have a “Take my breath away” panel)

Greer: It’s always weird to talk about books most of the audience hasn’t read because you don’t want to spoil the twists. He talked about his research: How with his last book about Victorian times, everyone gave him shit about picayune details, but with this novel about San Francisco in the 1950s, no one’s corrected him. So he thinks he’s getting away with things. Writing Advice: Said the best advice he ever heard was from Janet Fitch on Oprah: A cliché is whatever you’ve ever heard.

Korelitz talked about getting hired at Princeton to be a reader for college admissions. She was straightforward, and told them when she was being interviewed that she wanted to write a novel. They still hired her, though she says they might regret it now. Writing Advice: There’s value in the time of “cooking.” Cooking is the period when you really aren’t doing things but yet are thinking and reading. (Also, if you have a satirical college essay, send it to Korelitz’s anthology: Funniest College Essays.)

Gina Nahai told a story of how she’d not been back to Iran in thirty years, even though she’d been born there, but assumed that if she could only see her childhood home, then all those memories would flood back. Recently, though, she heard from a friend that her childhood home had been torn down, and felt the loss keenly. She doesn’t really know where she draws her identity from, since she’s always been a minority in every culture (Iranian Jew in Iran and America). Writing Advice: “All you need to write is a computer and a door you’re willing to shut.” Quote Two: “The greatest writers are not the ones with the most talent, but the ones with the most persistence.” (and thanks for the shout out during the panel, Gina: yes, I read a ton)

Janet Fitch: “the kid who kills himself in [Paint it Black] is more me than anyone else.” She equates the suicide in the book to the death of her older ‘80s persona. In the book, the male character is told he shouldn’t make art because he’s only a good pianist, and there are too many geniuses. She felt enormous pressure, as a young writer during the 80s, to be a perfectionist, and so really related to the punk scene in L.A., when they didn’t care, they just wanted to make some noise. Writing Advice: “You should not only be reading, but reading like a writer.” A kid who goes to Magic Castle is oohing and aahing, but the magician in back studies all the moves and technique.

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