George Saunders came to visit U of M to do a reading at an awards ceremony and give a small workshop. I was lucky enough to have him workshop my stories, and now I know that getting compliments from Mr. Saunders can give me a level of confidence and bliss equal to three hits of ex. I learned so much listening to him talk, I wish I could relay it all here. But the top amazing things he said/did I condensed as follows:
1- He flipped off the workshop. Literally. He said the best thing a writer can do is shut out all voices but his own.
2- He stressed the importance of making “warrior time,” time to write, especially, he said, if you’re a woman (!).
3- Listen to what you think are your weaknesses, he said. Those are actually your strengths. Don’t spend time trying to be another writer. Be yourself, and find joy in your work.
4- Be reckless.
5- All storytelling tends to be about the day something different happened. Little Red Riding Hood went to visit her grandma everyday. We don’t hear about those visits, we only hear about the one that went wrong. Think about how that applies to your own fiction.
Those are my top five favorite things he said, along with the fact that a first-time writer has to remember that when their book comes out, time doesn’t stop. It goes on, and so should your next book.
A rock star, Saunders exceeded all my expectations. How inspiring to see a writer who teaches by just being himself.