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Willow Springs Featured Interview

William T. Vollmann

Willow Springs: Interview with Kim Addonizio
"In poetry or any kind of writing, it’s about getting the words right. It has to beguile someone. It has to attract. It has to entertain or offend them. Wake them up or knock them down."

Past Interviews


Steve Almond
Willow Springs: Interview with Steve Almond
"I think it's fair for artists to get paid. And I will say to people now—though I wouldn't say it earlier in my career—that I will not work for free. If you're getting some money out of it, I'd like some money, too."
Rick Bass
Willow Springs: Interview with Rick Bass
"I wish it were that simple, that I could have a guidepost, or model, or scale against which to measure each work…"
Charles Baxter
Willow Springs: Interview with Charles Baxter
"These characters are in the scene and they're talking to each other, and you're reading it, and you're reconstructing something in your head. You're imagining it. You are reimagining it, and it's not a dream."
Erin Belieu
Willow Springs: Interview with Erin Belieu
"Almost everything I'm interested in is dialectical; that's where the tension in our lives is, where the tension in our art is. There's all this absurdity around us, but there's also the truly hideous."
Marvin Bell
Willow Springs: Interview with Marvin Bell
"I think you can write about the personal sublime and still be in the socio-political world. I'd like American poets to be more involved."
Aimee Bender
Willow Springs: Interview with Aimee Bender
"I'm not subtle. The violent impulses in my fiction are pretty much laid out on the table. I crave the opportunity to let out in fiction some of the dark thoughts that are not as accessible in a regular conversation."
Robert Bly
Willow Springs: Interview with Robert Bly
"…the greedy soul will eat up everything. It'll destroy a hundred universes for the sake of a little attention—the flutter of an eyelash."
Christopher Buckley
Willow Springs: Interview with Christopher Buckley
"William Carlos Williams said that a successful poet is one who writes a successful poem. That's it—it's hard to keep going on that alone, but many have to."
Blake Butler
Willow Springs: Interview with Blake Butler
"I love plot, but approaching plot as plot doesn't work for me. I like to fall into plot, write until I figure out what the plot is. The plots create themselves, rather than me creating them."
Lan Samantha Chang
Willow Springs: Interview with Lan Samantha Chang
"…people want established writers to notice them because they think it might be some kind of touch from a world they can then enter…"
Mark Childress
Willow Springs: Interview with Mark Childress
"A book can't be good if it's popular. That's as much crap as saying a book can't be good if it's unpopular. Popularity is no determinant of quality. "
Charles D'Ambrosio
Willow Springs: Interview with Charles D'Ambrosio
"All the original violence of the American project is still vibrating…in a big bang sort of way…. It makes sense that pattern would show up in my stories."
Matthew Dickman
Willow Springs: Interview with Matthew Dickman
"You know, making art and experiencing art are both pretty radical, because, in the end, art is about humanization, empathy, and even trust."
Andre Dubus III
Willow Springs: Interview with Andre Dubus III
"What distinguishes a good work from a great one, despite all the aspects of craft and all the skills you bring to it, is genuine curiosity."
Stuart Dybek
Willow Springs: Interview with Stuart Dybek
"Stories make the chaos understandable by arranging it along a timeline. But linear narration is only one way to perceive reality."
Lynn Emanuel
Willow Springs: Interview with Lynn Emanuel
"I'm interested in contradiction. I'm interested in saying something and then unsaying it."
Tess Gallagher
Willow Springs: Interview with Tess Gallagher
"I love not knowing things and that is at the heart of being a poet."
Patricia Goedicke
Willow Springs: Interview with Patricia Goedicke
"It's no accident that it's easier to write a curse poem than a praise poem. I mean a good curse poem."
Beckian Fritz Goldberg
Willow Springs: Interview with Beckian Fritz Goldberg
"Some things you can only see what's wrong with them—… Or sometimes you go back and go, Wow, how did I do that? It looks like I have a brain!"
Larry Heinemann
Willow Springs: Interview with Larry Heinemann
"I came to writing…because I had a story to tell—a story that simply would not be denied and wasn't going away anytime soon."
David Huddle
Willow Springs: Interview with David Huddle
"I love good sentences. I have a lust for a good sentence as a reader and a writer."
Major Jackson
Willow Springs: Interview with Major Jackson
"The fact that poems can enter into other realms of our lives made me think a little more seriously about that conversation of what it means to be human."
Michael Jamie-Becerra
Willow Springs: Interview with Michael Jamie-Becerra
"I go with the story that needs to be told…. I don't worry about my stories having to represent a certain viewpoint, a certain belief, a certain anything."
Louis B. Jones
Willow Springs: Interview with Louis B. Jones
"I'm just too used to getting below the surface of things. My narrative point of view is always deep, close inside the complexity of people's minds."
Fady Joudah
Willow Springs: Interview with Fady Joudah
"One does not necessarily need to carry the banner of each trauma in the world to at least remain cognizant that suffering which plagues us all is really in large part a product of the abstraction of some people's humanity and not others'. "
William Kittredge
Willow Springs: Interview with William Kittredge
"Eventually, nonfiction began to wear out. I must have written every anecdote in my life at least once. I wrote that material to death."
Yusef Komunyakaa
Willow Springs: Interview with Yusef Komunyakaa
"Poetry in our complex society connects us to lyrical tension that has everything to do with discovery and the act of becoming."
Melissa Kwasny
Willow Springs: Interview with Melissa Kwasny
"Of course I'm interested in some kind of communication, a speaking and a listening, between the human and non-human. I think we really are restricted in our knowledge by being only human."
Dorianne Laux
Willow Springs: Interview with Dorianne Laux
"I'm a poet of personal witness. I know there's a lot of feeling out there that the 'I' is dead and the reader is a void, but I feel I'm talking to somebody."
Phillip Lopate
Willow Springs: Interview with Phillip Lopate
"I prefer the term 'literary nonfiction.' Creativity is such a strange thing, as though people would intentionally write uncreatively…"
Robert Lopez
Willow Springs: Interview with Robert Lopez
"For the people in my fiction, it's baby steps all the way through, across tenuous ground. They're trying to make it across somehow, without getting more damaged along the way."
Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum
Willow Springs: Interview with Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum
"I don't want to be one of those writers who gets wrapped up in tangled sheets."
Thomas Lynch
Willow Springs: Interview with Thomas Lynch
"I write sonnets and I embalm."
Cate Marvin
Willow Springs: Interview with Cate Marvin
"In a poem, if you're sentimental in the beginning, you've already given it away. It's the writer's job to seduce. You're not just going to walk in buck naked and be like, Here I am. You have to lure them in from the title on."
Joseph Millar
Willow Springs: Interview with Joseph Millar
"That's the thing about poetry with me. I can't get out of it. I know people who write from different perspectives, you know, who write persona poems, but I think the subtext to all poems — the really good ones — is that the author is the speaker."
Lydia Millet
Willow Springs: Interview with Lydia Millet
"I think books should have an agenda, but I don't think you should be able to deliver a one-liner about what that agenda is. It should be an agenda felt by the reader, sensed by the reader, but not fully known."
Joyce Carol Oates
Willow Springs: Interview with Joyce Carol Oates
"With abortion rights, people think a battle's been won, but actually it hasn't. It's a ceaseless struggle even to have voting rights for people; in the South they're trying to take them away again."
Tim O'Brien
Willow Springs: Interview with Tim O'Brien
"I think bad writing has an agenda. It's polemical oftentimes—makes a point, delivers a message, offers counsel or advice about something. For me, good writing is tentative."
Susan Orlean
Willow Springs: Interview with Susan Orlean
"What I wanted to write about were the people and places around me. I didn't want to write about famous people simply because they were famous..."
Ann Pancake
Willow Springs: Interview with Ann Pancake
"I can't see the characters in the novel as without hope. Their situations are desperate, but writing about such characters fires me because they make me feel like my writing matters."
Marilynne Robinson
Willow Springs: Interview with Marilynne Robinson
"I feel there is a great deal of highly conventional thinking in almost every area of life that must be discarded in order for a writer to make something with integrity."
Richard Russo
Willow Springs: Interview with Richard Russo
"Most of the time, if you think about them in adjacent rooms, the door adjoining suffering and humor is very often wide open, but as we get closer and closer to suffering, the doorway gets smaller and smaller, because you can't stand it otherwise."
Prageeta Sharma
Willow Springs: Interview with Prageeta Sharma
"After a certain point, you have to have the strength and character and belief to be a writer. Images aren't going to save you from yourself. Beyond craft issues, you have to start wrestling with why you are who you are."
David Shields
Willow Springs: Interview with David Shields
"I'm interested in knowing the deepest secrets that connect human beings."
Gerald Stern
Willow Springs: Interview with Gerald Stern
"You read between the lines and discover what the character and personality of another writer is, and say, 'I like that guy. He's human. He's on the same wavelength.'"
Lawrence Sutin
Willow Springs: Interview with Lawrence Sutin
"I had always wanted to be a writer, but by virtue of always wanting to be a writer I became very frightened of it because it meant so much to me."
Melanie Rae Thon
Willow Springs: Interview with Melanie Rae Thon
"Writers are both incredibly arrogant and insecure, simultaneously, and those two things are so close, really."
William T. Vollmann
Willow Springs: Interview with Melanie Rae Thon
"Writers are both incredibly arrogant and insecure, simultaneously, and those two things are so close, really."
Jess Walter
Willow Springs: Interview with Jess Walter
"If you decided to become a literary writer by going into journalism and then ghostwriting and then writing mysteries, that's the worst path you could take. I like to say I've taken the service entrance into literary fiction."
Robert Wrigley
Willow Springs: Interview with Robert Wrigley
"If you read lots of great poetry, you'll be a better person for it, though if you're a shit, you'll probably still be a shit. Albeit a well-read, or a more interesting one at literary soirees."
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