Lit Fest 2021 Preview: Q&A With Visiting Author Steve Almond

Editor's Note: In advance of the March 13 deadline to apply for Lit Fest Advanced Workshops, we've asked the 2021 Visiting Authors for a preview of their workshop style, what they're reading, and more.

What books/movies/tv shows have fired you up lately?

A Burning by Megha Majumdar was my favorite novel of 2020 by a long shot. Just an astonishing achievement. I felt the same way about the memoir Memorial Drive by Natasha Treathaway. I also read Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife a couple more times, because it’s one of the most astonishing books I’ve ever read about marriage and creativity and fame and the endless loop of patriarchal bullshit through which we slog. Recently read this new novel, Something Wild by Hanna Halperin, and it pretty much wrecked me, too. 

What are you working/currently trying to work on these days?

I finished a long ambitious novel a few weeks ago, which I am now looking forward to never publishing. When I’ve recovered from that particular failure, I will probably work on a less ambitious novel, which I will also fail to publish. As I get older, I find myself more interested in writing stories than publishing them. Some of this is no doubt protective, but I also feel like the real achievement is getting to the keyboard and making your daily dosage of decisions. The rest is just business, at which I clearly suck. 

How would you describe your workshop style?

Hmmm. Probably better to ask my students that question. My basic philosophy is that a good workshop is a literary trust fall. Writers have to trust that everyone in the room has made a good faith effort to understand what they’re trying to do, and has taken the time to recognize the places where they've made the best decisions. Once that trust is established, the workshop can offer constructive feedback. The goal is for students to walk away feeling inspired to revise their work toward greater truth. You have to be able to be candid with your fellow writers in a way that makes them feel you’re rooting for the story or essay or novel to be the best version of itself.

Are we living in a simulation or no?

Most the time, we are. We’re living in a simulated version of the past and the future, shaped by our wishes and regrets. But every now and again, when everything breaks right, we allow ourselves to live in the present. 

Steve Almond is teaching Advanced Weeklong Fiction Workshop: Finding the Truth in Fiction. Learn more here. Apply via Submittable.