Friday Five: The Marilynne Robinson Edition


In May-June of 2003, I had the great good fortune to study with Marilynne Robinson for three weeks at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Here are some gems from Marilynne:

1)  If you have any luck at all, when you sit down to write you won’t end up writing what you intended at all.

2)  You can’t find a story without writing it all out (don’t focus on page limits or word count).

3)  Don’t be loyal to the investment you’ve made in a weak scene instead of loyal to the scene itself.  Does it deserve to die?  If so, then kill it, no matter how long you’ve sweated over it.

4)   A character shouldn’t look like a type but a personality.

5)  The tension in a piece of fiction is not how it ends but how it arrives at its ending.

Bonus Gem:  You should always keep something in front of the reader’s eye; it’s like leading a blind person through the reader’s house.

18 thoughts on “Friday Five: The Marilynne Robinson Edition

  1. More, please!

    Oh man, these are so great, and obviously important. I wish I could hear more about each of them in the context of a real-time discussion. Over tea. With you. Sigh…wouldn’t *that* be nice?


    • Re: More, please!

      Me, too! Because I’ve got tons of stuff written down (it was tough just picking out a few to share) and there are stories behind much of what I wrote. She’s a trip because she speaks in complete sentences all the time. No fractured thoughts. I’m very grateful for that experience.


    • I know it’s a lot to ponder all at once. Which is why I forced myself to share the short ones rather than the more in-depth blurbs.

      Have a wonderful weekend, Jeannine.


  2. They’re all beautiful… no shock as MR is brilliant, one of my faves. So jealous that 1) you got to do Iowa / summer and 2) she was your teacher there!


    • I’m so glad #1 resonated with you, Jennifer! How’s the new project coming along?

      I’m working away on my revisions with Claudia’s help. The CLOSE TO HOME you read didn’t shine nearly as much as this version shines; I’m very pleased with the changes and improvements. Hooray for revisions! (I’m at about the halfway mark so it’ll be a few more months, I think).


Comments are closed.