Writer’s Toolbox

Author Q&A

Here we present our exclusive collection of Q&As with a long list of illustrious authors.

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Jane Smiley

Jane SmileyJane Smiley is the author of several accalaimed novels, including A Thousand Acres, Moo, and Some Luck.

What is your method for overcoming writer’s block?

Learning something—either by reading a book or going somewhere or talking or gossiping.

What are your favorite or most helpful writing prompts?

I always get into the hot tub and read a bit of a novel before I start the day's work. If I feel reluctant, I reflect on the bills I have to pay. If I feel really reluctant, I time myself and say that I only have to work for an hour.

What is the most valuable advice you received as a young writer?

Leonard Michaels told me that I had to change my name from my married name (Jane Whiston) to my maiden name (Jane Smiley) because JS was easier to remember and had more personality. I think he was right. My piece of naming advice would be that if your name is Kevin, you need to use another pen name, because the first name Kevin always seems to overwhelm its last name, and so no one can remember which Kevin you are, and therefore cannot find your books on Amazon.