When I need to write well, I read. My editor, Diane, told me that to make music, you have to hear it. To make sentences and stories that are magic, you have to hear those, too. My friend JR — a writer extraordinaire — made me promise that I’ll read good words every night before bed to let them turn over in my mind, seep in.
Almost always, I turn to Anthony Doerr. Tony is one of our best modern writers. What I’d give to live up there in Idaho inside his mind, where snowflakes and Italy and abstract ideas get spun into genius. His latest is Memory Wall. I’m on page 10, and my pages are highlighted with whole hunks of pink and yellow already where the writing is so transcendent that it’s flat unfair.
Another to buy: Four Seasons in Rome, his memoir of a year in Italy, and lucky you — you’re going for pasta and Papal extravaganzas and you didn’t even know it. (Tony: please find a fellowship in France next. Just for me.)
Once, I sent Tony Doerr a fan letter, telling him how he helps me be a better writer. He actually wrote back, which made me love him even more.
Once, my friend Ed Montini wrote a fan letter to EB White. He got a letter back, too. Montini showed it to me. It was written on an old typewriter. I touched it and thought about DNA.