Pulitzer Prize Winning Author on Writer’s Block and the Simple Secrets to a Long Marriage

There’s so much simple truth here that we’re boggled:

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Anna Quindlen may have a Pulitzer Prize and a résumé full of best sellers, but she’s not above doing some channel-surfing, too. “I’m an inveterate TV watcher and needlepointer—simultaneously,” says the  acclaimed author, 61, whose  latest novel is Still Life With Bread Crumbs. “There’s so much good writing on television now: True DetectiveJustifiedThe Good WifeHouse of Cards.” Quindlen, who lives in New York City with her attorney husband, Gerald Krovatin,  admits that most of her writing rituals “are designed to allow me not to write: power walking, newspapers, phone calls. But eventually I run out of other things to do.”

What was the first book you remember loving as a child?

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Jo March wants to be a writer and then becomes one. Enough said.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs has a reinvention theme. If you were to reinvent yourself, what other career  would you like?

I always wanted to be a doctor. I drive my doctors crazy by self-diagnosing, but in my defense I’m nearly always right.

You were a newspaper reporter in New York in the ’70s. What’s your favorite memory of that period in your career?

When you’re a young  re porter, every moment is pretty indelible. Just taking the subway to a crime scene or a press conference or a community event was exciting because you never knew what would happen when you arrived. And, frankly, I was so green that I was always nervous about my ability to  deliver the goods. I dictated a fair number of stories from phone booths on deadline. Boy, does that date me! Bottom line: I more or less loved it all.

Do you ever have writer’s block?

Some days I fear writing dreadfully, but I do it anyway. I’ve discovered that sometimes writing badly can eventually lead to something better. Not writing at all leads to nothing.

What’s your perfect Sunday?

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John Ostrander: 65

superbirthdayby John Ostrander

So there I was, flailing around for this week’s topic. The clock was ticking and time was running out. And then it hit me like a wet sock on the end of my nose – it’s appearing on Sunday, which happens to be my birthday. Not only my birthday but my 65th birthday which is supposed to be one of those big hoohah numbers. A milestone (I hope Brother Michael Davis lets me use that word). It marks me officially as a Senior Citizen (as if my balding pattern and gray to white hair hadn’t already done that).

I’m doing all of those things you’re supposed to do at this age. Join AARP? Done that. Applied for Social Security and Medicare? Done and done. Gimme that governmental teat to suckle. Sorry, Junior, but I’m soaking up your financial future and destroying your freedoms. Ask various media.

Except, of course, they don’t give me all that much. Of course, there may not be Social Security by the time you reach my age but I didn’t think it would be there when I reached this age so who knows?

And, of course, I’m going to retire.

Not.

Even if I could afford to retire (which I can’t), why would I stop writing? I love this gig. It’s part of my bones at this point. This is what I do, this is what I am. Writing isn’t like playing sports; the knees may go but, with writers, so long as your mind isn’t completely shot (careful!), the probability is that you can just keep getting better and I think, I hope, I believe that I have.

Regrets, I have a few but then again too few too mention.

Crap. I’m quoting “My Way”. I’m not a fan of the song. Too self congratulatory for me. The only ones who can sing it and make it work are Frank Sinatra and John Cleese at the end of George of the Jungle.

Crap. Now I have it running through my head.

Crap. Now I have the disco version running through my head.

Yeah, now it’s going through yours too, right? You’re welcome.

Anyway, I can look back and see some things I do wish I had done differently. I wish I had done a few more creator-owned projects. Balancing those against the for-hire work is generally a better idea, I think. Folks like Peter David and Mark Waid have done a real good job of that, I think.

I also wish I had gotten into prose more, gotten some novels under my belt. Again, folks like Peter David have done a good job with that. Yes, there are times I wish I was Peter David. Most of the time I’m fine with being me but there are times. . .

But know what? I’m 65. I’m not dead. There’s time to make changes and start doing both prose and creator owned projects. My paternal grandfather lived to be 100 and his daughter lived to be 101. In this day of crowdfunding, it’s more possible than ever to get new work out there.

And I have new projects I’m working on with partners I’ve worked with before. There’s possibilities of a novel or two that I’m actively pursuing. One of the projects that I’m doing with Tom Mandrake,Kros, you may have seen mentioned on Facebook. Timothy Truman, Mike Gold and I are discussing more GrimJack. Lots of stuff I can’t discuss yet but I hope to tell folks soon.

And I’m on social media. I have my Facebook page, I have my Twitter account. Still learning how to use the latter but I’m out there pitching.

When you get right down to it, 65 is just another number. It doesn’t really mean anything in and of itself; the meaning is what we ascribe to it. Getting old? Naw. Pulling back? Hell no. Going to Tahiti? Well, I wouldn’t say no but not on a permanent basis.

I’m just getting started.

When the chemistry works

Time now for a few more words about this year’s hottest writer. Hi Vince!

by Michael Idato

breakingbadcast

‘It is a wonderful time to be working in television,” declares writer Vince Gilligan, as our audience with the man behind arguably the most critically exalted drama of our time –Breaking Bad – begins. ”One of the things that I love about television and, in fact, have always loved about television, is that it is a writers’ medium.”

At a time when the industry’s best writers, directors and, now, actors are drawn to television, Gilligan says the drawcard, especially for writers, is freedom. ”It still takes a village to make a movie and a village to make a TV show, but more often than not, one of the final arbiters of the actions of that village in movies is the director and in television is the writer,” he says.

”Most of the enjoyment and satisfaction that I’ve derived from working in this business has been from working in television as opposed to movies. Plain and simple, I get listened to more by the television business than the movie business.”

The 47-year-old writer-producer of Breaking Bad is heading to Australia as a guest of the Sydney Writers’ Festival. He says he’s not much of a public speaker and he’s honest enough to know exactly what’s on everyone’s mind: ”People want to know how my writers and I went about writing Breaking Bad and how we went about producing it,” he says. ”There’s not a lot of things I’m good at explaining in life, but that’s one thing that comes pretty easily.”

Before Breaking Bad, Gilligan’s credits included The X-Files, its spin-off The Lone Gunmen, and the 2005 reboot of the iconic 1970s horror-detective hybrid, Night Stalker. In fact, The X-Files was Gilligan’s first staff writing gig. As a young writer in Hollywood he found himself in a writers’ room working alongside the show’s creator, Chris Carter, and one of its key creatives, the acclaimed Frank Spotnitz. Most of Gilligan’s credited episodes were collaborations with Spotnitz and John Shiban, who has since gone on to write The Vampire DiariesTorchwood and Hell on Wheels.

”Chris Carter taught us all how to write for television and how to produce for television,” he says. ”He was an excellent boss and teacher and mentor. John Shiban was very good in the editing room, he was excellent in post-production, and Frank Spotnitz was a wonderful storyteller. Working with those folks and also with Chris for seven years, I learnt an awful lot.”

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The Myth of the Artist’s Creative Routine

We’re on the fence about this article on account of we’re major routine freaks. And part of our routine is always to say “on account of” instead of “cuz.” So we already have like zero cred, right? Anyway:

creative-mindby Casey N. Cep

For all the interest in the habits of highly creative people, there’s not much to learn from Don DeLillo’s manual typewriter or Maya Angelou’s mid-day showers.

Charles Dickens wrote while blindfolded. Virginia Woolf took three baths a day, and always with ice-cold water. Stephen King eats a blood orange at every meal whenever he is working on a book. Joyce Carol Oates writes only in Comic Sans.

None of those things is true. Before you go and stock your kitchen with blood oranges or switch the font on your word processor, let me assure you that I invented every one of those writerly habits. But what if I hadn’t? What if you had read them in an interview or in any one of the million aggregations of writerly routines? Would you really stop taking hot showers or start blindfolding yourself when you write?

Part of the endless fascination with these lists is that maybe you would—and by following any one of the habits you might become like the artist who first practiced it. Whenever I see one of these lists, I read it. I even bought a copy of Mason Curry’s book Daily Rituals: How Artists WorkI read it. Twice. And while I would never ask such a question, I am secretly pleased whenever someone asks an author at a reading how and when she writes.

But why? One of the things you notice when you start reading enough of these lists of highly successful habits of highly successful artists is that no two routines are alike. The incessant interrogation of artists about their daily lives might only be voyeurism, in which case such idiosyncrasies are fine, but I think most of us read about their lives in order to shape our own. I read and read and read these routines thinking that if only I could find the right one to borrow then I would be more productive, more successful, more writerly.

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Herbie J Pilato has a Message for Former NBC Pages

There’s a reunion coming up! Check it out!

Herbie Pilato NBC Page Reunion Capture

Hoping to see a lot of old friends!