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How I Write


Each week the Daily Beast interviews a different author about his or her writing habits, for a series called “How I Write.” I talked about my favorite underwear, superstitions, and my morning routine. A couple answers below.

Describe your writing routine, including any unusual rituals associated with the writing process, if you have them.

I have a woodshop in my garage. If I’ve made good progress in the morning, I’ll reward myself by going out back to spend an hour making sawdust, before returning to work for the afternoon. Woodworking requires a completely different kind of thinking and problem-solving ability than writing. With writing, you take a set of facts and ideas, and you reason your way forward to a story that pulls them together. With woodworking, you start with an end product in mind, and reason your way backward to the raw wood. If you can’t envision the entire journey that a plank of wood will take on its way to becoming something finished, you will make uncorrectable mistakes. With writing, each step of creation justifies the one that comes before. With woodworking, each step has to justify the one that comes after. On a good day, I’ve had a chance to exercise both kinds of reasoning.

Tell us a funny story related to a book tour or book event.

I was standing by the door, about to go on stage at Elliott Bay in Seattle, when a young couple got out of their seats and frantically rushed out past me. On her way out the door, the woman whispered to me, “Sorry, you lost out to Sacks.” I thought to myself, “Yeah, no hard feelings, if Oliver Sacks were in town, I’d probably choose to see him over me, too.” But, as I was walking up to the podium, it suddenly hit me. It wasn’t Sacks I’d lost out to. That’s the wonderful thing about Seattle: in New York, a horny couple would never have the common courtesy to explain to you why they were leaving your book reading.

Read the rest of the interview at the Daily Beast.