A Note to Students
I receive a lot of emails from high school and college students who've been asked to find out and think about me and my writing. Here are some things to think about before you write to me.
- Writers spend a lot of time and sweat getting words to express what we want them to, in the most powerful, and truthful way we can. It's a wonderful job to have, and it's also really hard work. Then we send our words out into the world, where you encounter them. At that point, it's up to you to decide what they mean to you. Asking a writer to explain what a poem or story or essay means is basically asking us to unravel what we spent so much effort knitting together, and put our meaning into other, less powerful words. Anyway, your job as a student is not to get me to say something about my writing and then quote it in your paper. Your job is to be with my writing and learn something about yourself from how you react to it. Read it silently and out loud, fast and slow, to yourself and to your friends. Notice what you respond to, how you feel reading it, what it makes you think about, and ask yourself why. You get to have your own relationship to my writing and write about that.
- I have limited time and energy, and although I always try to respond, I'm much more likely to say something useful if you take the time to think out specific questions that you care about, not great, big, huge ones like "What is the meaning of your life?" or "What inspires you?," not great, big, huge lists of questions that I'd have to write a whole new book to answer, and not the standard list of questions your teacher gave you. Show that you respect my time by preparing. Do your homework first. Read a few interviews or articles about me. Read what's on this site. Ask questions you actually want to know the answers to. I'm happy to help as long as you ask a reasonable number of real questions, and don't expect me to write your paper for you. That's your job. My job is to write the next thing.