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Meg Wolitzer Shares Her Writer's Perspective at Annual Symposium

March 08, 2014

Category: Events

wolitzer14.jpgAuthor Meg Wolitzer says she never forgets how fortunate she is to make her living as a writer. She shared that good fortune with the audience when she spoke at Catawba College's 28th annual Brady Author's Symposium on March 6.

Wolitzer, with multiple novels to her credit including The Uncoupling (2011), The Ten-Year Nap (2008), The Position (2005), The Wife (2003), and two for young readers, Caribou (1985) and The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman (2011), focused on her latest tome, The Interestings (2013). She called it "the favorite of my books without a doubt," and shared that it "starts at a summer camp and goes for 40 years," following the lives of six characters who dub themselves "the Interestings".

Admitting that she too attended a similar summer camp as an adolescent, in a "time of firsts," Wolitzer said it was not an autobiographical novel and the characters were not based on real people she knows. "I don't believe in writing about people you know. It hurts them. Why would you do that?"

"We write from the place where we stand," she said, and The Interestings allowed her to write from "the place where I stand and marvel at time passing."

"All that the writer is supposed to do is take notes of the changes in time. Life is not a straight road. Things happen to people; a writer knows that."

Wolitzer, a lover of words and Scrabble, is the daughter of a writer, Hilma Wolitzer. Her mother, she explained, "got a lot out of the women's movement – she got the courage to write." That courage was passed along to Wolitzer who realized at an early age "that you make a life as a writer day by day and maybe hour by hour."

Through watching her mother do her writing at her Smith-Corona typewriter armed with a bottle of White-Out, Wolitzer saw that "being a writer was doable."

"When you start writing you're writing for someone," she reasoned. "When I first started out, I was writing for my first grade teacher. I wanted to create an approximation of the world when I began writing."

Always encouraged by her mother in a childhood that was filled with equal parts of "Bewitched and E.B. White," Wolitzer studied creative writing at Smith College and graduated from Brown University in 1981. Her first novel, Sleepwalking, a story of three college girls obsessed with poetry and death, was written while she was an undergraduate and published in 1982. She sold it for $5,000.

Her literary successes since that time have given her renown, although she admits she still encounters readers who have never heard of her. She shared the question she sometimes receives: "Would I have heard of you?" And, she quipped, there is only one good answer: "In a more just world."

This author, who is a reader of Virginia Woolf, Mary Gordon, Chekov and Alice Munroe, has a young adult book coming out entitled, Bellzhar, about a group of "emotionally fragile kids." This title, Wolitzer confided, is a play on the Sylvia Plath novel, The Bell Jar.