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Notes from a Western Life
Ranging Far and Wide on the High Plains and Beyond
Linda M. Hasselstrom's Blog

Gleanings II: Learning from other writers -- Alyson Hagy's craft talk, “Fiction: Lean and Mean"

Alyson Hagy at the Equality State Book Fest, 2012.
Visit her website here.
Photo by Jane Young.
. . .
My policy, when I attend writing conferences as a speaker, is always to attend as many sessions by other writers as possible. I believe doing so compliments my hosts and the other writers and I always learn something unexpected.

Moreover, I’ve attended many such literary festivals where the featured writers appeared only for their own sessions and then disappeared, sometimes to drink with their buddies until it time to appear again. I understand the desire to keep up with friends but I believe when I’m paid to appear at a conference, my responsibility includes making myself available during the normal work day for questions from the other attendees. They are, after all, the folks who presumably buy and read our books.

So I dived right into Alyson Hagy’s craft talk, “Fiction: Lean and Mean,” at the Equality Book Festival, taking notes on that and her keynote luncheon presentation about her newest novel, exploring the intersections of art, Wyoming and the west.

Alyson Carol Hagy is author of the Wyoming-centered fiction Boleto, (2012) Ghosts of Wyoming (2010) and Snow, Ashes (2007), all from Graywolf Press as well as other works of fiction.

Some quotations and paraphrases from her talks:

“Don’t tell the reader what to think; tell the truth. Tell what happened.” The reader will figure out the meaning for himself or herself.

“If you think you can write something that will help you reconcile with your parents-- it ain’t gonna happen.”

“Failure isn’t really a hindrance. It’s part of the process.” Hagy likened revising to fly-fishing and tennis, both of which she loves: it’s necessary to just keep casting and hitting balls, over and over. “All three require a lot of repetition.”

“I cheat myself,” she says, by writing short scenes. Instead of thinking of the thousands of pages she has to write to create a novel, she thinks only of little nuggets, writes in short spurts, knowing that eventually they will add up to a novel.

“Writing (fiction or poetry) is about questions.”

I agree with Alyson’s assessment; I write to discover the answers.

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For More Information:

Wyoming Authors Wiki website for Alyson Hagy

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