Kiran Desai (author of The Inheritance of Loss) and Laren McClung (author of the poetry collection, Between Here and Monkey Mountain) joined MFA faculty member Tiphanie Yanique for a forum about eschewing and innovating beyond the tinny advice of "writing what you know."
On the process of writing characters with different economic backgrounds Kiran Desai said:
"If you open the door, it's very easy. And then you begin to make connections with all these people from different landscapes… and then you begin to make it fiction."
Desai answered the question of balancing between narrative and lyrical word choice saying:
"I read a lot of poetry and it teaches me how to move—between landscapes and people. The poetry of the prose does become quite important."
On the use of non-fiction in fiction she admitted:
"I have found that anytime I do non-fiction work, it helps me enormously in my fiction."
Laren McClung spoke to the audience about the process of writing saying:
"Time is really important… It's important that we process things through our psyche, and internalize it fully before we come to the page with it."
On narrative McClung said:
"Narrative for me was important. I never have a narrative fully in my mind when I write, but I know it will come."
"It's important to me because I never want my listener to be baffled. "
And on influence she warned:
"As a writer you don't want your own voice to become too close to someone else's."
Both Kiran Desai's book and Laren McClung's collection are available to order online or at your local bookstore. Many thanks to both of them for spending time with us to talk about the artistry of writing.
Kiran Desai is the author of The Inheritance of Loss, which won the 2006 Booker Prize. Her first book was Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. She’s been published in the New Yorker and Mirrorwork, an anthology of 50 years of Indian writing edited by Salman Rushdie.
Laren McClung is the author of Between Here and Monkey Mountain. She’s been the recipient of a Goldwater Hospital Teaching Fellowship, a Teachers & Writers Collaborative Van Lier Fellowship, and a Veterans Writing Fellowship at NYU. McClung is coeditor of the anthology Inheriting the War.
Moderated by Tiphanie Yanique, Assistant Professor at the School of Writing.