Joyce Carol Oates on Writing and Reading


Joyce Carol Oates gave a reading here last night, and while the time we got with her was much too short, I certainly found it inspiring.

She mostly read, but she talked a little bit about what it means to be a writer. She said that it is a spiritual practice, a way to tell other people’s stories and to get out of yourself when you need to. She said that reading can do that, too.

joyce carol oates
The book I bought last night. Can’t wait to dive in.

I’m not usually a book signing kind of person, but since the program ended right at the girl’s bedtime I hung around to get a book signed, and as I thought about it, it came to me that reading and writing can help you lose yourself but also find yourself.

And that’s what I need right about now.

I’ve been talking about the fact that I want to try writing fiction again for a while, but I haven’t actually been trying to very much. Now is not a good time for doing much of anything outside the norm, so I’m trying to give myself some slack on that.

But I can read, and I feel like that might be the answer. I even told her that I’m “reading my way back to writing fiction” and she wished me luck, which I’ll probably need.

Filling the Tanks

I read a piece the other day about Joss Whedon and how he gets so much done and one of the things he talked about was filling the tanks, by which he means just taking a lot of varied stuff in while you’re looking for ideas or wondering what to do next. “Firefly” actually came about from reading a book about the Civil War.

I feel like Oates, who pretty much defines prolific, would probably agree with that sentiment. I do, too.

So that’s what I’m going to try. I want to read more, and more varied stuff, than I have been doing lately.

I want to read classics and currents, fiction and nonfiction, random stuff I pick up at the library and stuff I already own.

I’m a collector of reading lists (and I just learned last night about the Writers for Writers award, so I’ll have to look into those authors as well) so I have lots to choose from.

But I’d love to know who some of your favorite authors are and what your favorite books are. I might just end up adding them to my list!

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One Comment

  1. Hi! I’m a new member of the NW Arkansas Bloggers group. I didn’t make it to the reading last night so it was nice to hear your takeaway. (And always good to meet another Joss Whedon fan.) My favorite author right now is Brandon Sanderson and his series Mistborn. It’s possibly the best fantasy series I’ve ever read. Let me know if you check it out. 🙂

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