“Writing makes my heart pound, my hands flutter…”

May 4, 2015 § 2 Comments


Julianna Baggott

Some days it seems as if everyone who has ever written a book is also writing a book on how to write books, but author Julianna Baggott has added a fun twist, first writing a novel – Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders – about a fictional novelist name Harriet Wolfe, and then, penning a short bit of craft advice purporting to be letters from Wolfe to a young Flannery O’Connor. The letters are not only fun to read, but packed with real (not fictional) good advice.  For instance:

Dear Miss O’Connor,

You are quite right. And it’s not really fair. The traits a writer needs for survival are at odds.

To show the real world – in its honest beautiful grotesquerie — you should be vulnerable, sensitive, laid bare. Yet, to accept the criticism and rejection that you need to endure and improve, you have to be tough, hardened. A cicada’s thin husk will not be enough.

It helps if you wallow and brood – the more you can wring out of an experience the better – but professionally, it’s better to be resilient and bounce lightly.

It’s helpful to be good with words and equally helpful not to think of words as something with which one should be good. It’s great to have an intellect, but better if you think you know nothing.

It helps if you’re fascinated by your fellow human beings and helpful if you crave solitude. (I crave it too deeply.)

… It’s helpful if you’re not crazed. And it’s helpful if you see the world off-kilter, as a crazed person would.

… The question isn’t: How to survive? The question is: Why survive?

For me the answer is that writing makes my heart pound, my hands flutter. It still makes me hungry and desirous and fearful.

Because I need the honest beautiful grotesquerie of the world, because I want to stay sensitive. I want to wallow and bounce.

… Sincerely,


That’s only a brief excerpt, but Baggott is offering readers who pre-order her novel a copy of the mini-craft book, aka the fictional letters. All the clever details can be found here.


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