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AWP Reportage: Walter Mosely on the Writing Process

(First in a series of posts detailing specific sessions at the AWP conference in Atlanta.)

I’ll admit that the Thursday afternoon AWP session billed as “How to Read and Write: Walter Mosley and Francine Prose on the Writing Process” drew me into the East Ballroom at the Hilton Atlanta & Towers more for the promise of hearing from Prose than from her co-presenter. And I’ll similarly confess that when it became clear that Mosley was going to have to solo the event, I was disappointed (albeit relieved by his assurance that the family emergency keeping Prose away from Atlanta was “non-lethal”).

For a moment I was tempted to leave the East Ballroom and head across the street to the bar at the Marriott where I knew Dan Wickett was gathering with members of the Emerging Writers Network. I’m sure they had a fine time over there, but I’m glad I stayed to hear Mosley speak on his own.

Basically, he spoke about/read excerpts from his forthcoming book, This Year You Write Your Novel. In the book’s Introduction, Mosely explains that he has prepared the text to serve “as a guide for anyone who wishes to commit themselves to the task of beginning and completing a novel within a year’s time.”

Mosely’s suggestions aren’t altogether new, but sometimes it really does help to hear simple and/or familiar statements (on the importance of “writing every day,” for example, or the necessity of “learning how to write without restraint”) from a true voice of experience. And Mosley’s stage presence sure didn’t hurt.

What puzzled me, however, were Mosely’s repeated and somewhat dismissive statements about Francine Prose’s latest contribution to “writing on writing”: her recent book on “Reading Like a Writer.” As anyone who has read my review of in The Writer magazine already knows, I enjoyed Reading Like a Writer immensely. But given what Mosely presented from his own book, it’s obvious that the two authors had utterly different intents in penning their respective texts. So it seems a little unfair (and maddeningly reminiscent of certain MFA workshops from my past) for Mosely to criticize Prose for writing the book she intended to write, on a subject she wanted to explore for her readers, instead of writing something more like his. It’s really too bad that Prose wasn’t able to make the session; I’m sure the discussion between the two authors would have been extremely interesting.

That aside, I left the session smiling and energized. In that moment it seemed that I really would return to writing fiction every day. And I might even reach a point of writing without restraint.

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