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A Peek Behind the Laptops (or Escritoires) of Famous Authors

posted Feb 1, 2013, 12:25 PM by Holloway McCandless

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If you're curious about how literary luminaries such as Ann Patchett and Michael Lewis built their careers, or whether they use a laptop or a pencil for their first drafts, you can find some very candid first-person accounts in Meredith Maran's Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do. As I noted in my review of Why We Write, etc. at Shelf Awareness, the authors profiled are all of a certain age--not a single wunderkind in the bunch--but then the message of this book is that success is conjured by a mixture of talent, perseverance and happenstance. This is not surprising, but the openness is. For example, Ann Patchett reveals the dollar amounts of her early advances and cites the supreme importance of her publicist; Mary Karr credits prayer as part of her writing process.

Free excerpt online: The main substance of Jennifer Egan's writing process and career story is available to read for free at To find out her birthday you'll have to buy the book, which was published as an affordable paperback original and also for a good cause: some of the proceeds will benefit the literacy work at 826 National.

FYI, here's a complete list of the 20 authors who participated in Why We Write, etc.:
Isabel Allende
David Baldacci
Jennifer Egan
James Frey
Sue Grafton
Sara Gruen
Kathryn Harrison
Gish Jen
Sebastian Junger
Mary Karr
Michael Lewis
Armistead Maupin
Terry McMillan
Rick Moody
Walter Mosley
Susan Orlean
Ann Patchett
Jodi Picoult
Jane Smiley
Meg Wolitzer

*FTC Disclosure: I bought some of these books with my own bucks, but most were review copies I received through my assignments from Shelf Awareness (see an index of my Shelf Awareness book reviews here), but my opinions are not for sale, at least not for the price of a free book or a paltry book review fee. If you click on a "Shop Indie Bookstores" link above and end up ordering the book I might make a few cents, but the reason I link to Indie Bookstores on my site is that I adore them (my local: the fantabulous Brookline Booksmith) and I want them to survive.