Science and literature are both ways to ask questions about why we're here.

Sometimes I wake at 2 A.M. worrying that my great-granddaughter will have to march through her distant, broiling future gathering all the plastic I ever disposed of.

'Research,' for me, is a big word that encompasses a lot of different activities, all of them based around curiosity. Research is traveling to places, or studying snowflakes with a magnifying glass, or excavating one's memories. Research is walking around Hamburg with a notebook.

I studied history and English in college, got a master's in writing, but I was always sort of an autodidact in science.

I'm terrified of cliches.

Great writers probably shouldn't be ranked, at least not by me.

Sometimes my readers ask me what else they should read, and I recommend Sebald.

Fiction writers have long turned to winter to advance bluer palettes, slicker surfaces, and sharper contrasts. The sky darkens, the wind picks up, and flakes start to fall. Horizons shrink. Couples bicker. Cars slide off roads. Obliteration tends to loiter between the sentences.

Without always meaning to, I write really long short stories, 60-pagers, 90-pagers, pieces of fiction that are too long for all but the bravest magazines to print, and too short for all but the bravest book publishers to publish.

I had the little Radio Shack crystal radio, and then my aunt Judy bought me a shortwave radio. It was amazing to me: like on these really clear nights - I lived in Ohio - I could get Texas or Florida. You felt like the world was a smaller place.

Indeed, every book on my shelves is a key to a little vault of memories.

Basketball games - and seasons - make great narratives; they feature distinct acts, heroes and villains, and guaranteed resolutions.

We live in a culture that venerates scores. We affix numbers to how much fat is in our mochachinos, how quickly our telephones suck information from the air, how much pain we're in. Reading, too, has become a skill to quantifiably assess.

Travel definitely affects me as a writer.

I never played inside as a kid - even in the rain I'd go out.

My goals aren't really commercial success.

I guess whatever maturity is there may be there because I've been keeping a journal forever. In high school my friends would make fun of me - you're doing your man diary again. So I was always trying to translate experience into words.

The world is so fundamentally interesting that it makes me fall in love with it a dozen times a day.

When I was a boy, all the books I owned fit on a single shelf. Now I have several thousand stacked around the house.

I'll read anything Anne Carson writes, anything J. M. Coetzee writes, and anything Cormac McCarthy writes. I'll drop whatever I'm doing to read a new Mary Ruefle essay.

Short stories are not maybe the biggest deal in our culture anymore.

My parents would drive us to Florida every spring in this big old, rusy Suburban, and we'd collect stuff on the beach for our aquarium back in Ohio; we had this big saltwater aquarium back in Ohio. Every time we found anything, any mollusk, my mom would bring out the guidebook and quiz us on what it was, so that stuff was built in early.

It took me about three years to write About Grace. I wasn't teaching two of those years, so I was working eight-hour days, five days a week. And it would include research and reading - it wasn't just a blank page, laying down words.

Growing up, I loved to play. Writing was a natural outtake of play. I realize now, having kids, that maybe that's unusual. Living out in the middle of nowhere, I entertained myself by writing.

I guess you could say I've been writing all my life.

We Americans are churning through fresh water at an alarming and unsustainable rate.

Learned to read, and for a while as a kid, you think books are just leaves on trees. Then suddenly, you think a human being is making that, and maybe you could do that.

We live through life, but we live through art, too. And in art, as in life, nothing is generalized. No one thing is a copy of the next. Everything is individual.

I listen to podcasts while I run in Boise's foothills.

For me, the natural world is always telling big stories about humongous scales of time. And I often feel simultaneously terrified and humbled by those scales and in awe, and delighted that I get to be here; that I'm lucky enough, that we are lucky enough to get experience these things for the tiny finger snap of time that we get to be on Earth.

I've been getting into Nick Drake lately, the folk singer. Sad, gorgeous stuff.

'Never do the dishes without music,' my brother Mark once advised me - the same brother who once ate a spoonful of refrigerated dog food to escape his turn at the kitchen sink. And really, it may be the most sensible advice I've been given.

I grew up in Cleveland, so my heart got attached at a young age to the freight train of sadness that is Cleveland sports.

You don't say, I'm going to be a writer when I grow up - at least I didn't.

My mom is a science teacher in high school, and one of my brothers works in optics at Bell Labs, and so I was always surrounded by it.

Memory is this one attempt to not be erased by time. And I think that ties back to what I learned watching my grandmother lose her memories is, you know, we are all facing erasure eventually.

Sometimes, if you wander long enough out-of-doors, you look up and find yourself in a suddenly devastating place: on a glittering slab of granite, say, hanging a thousand feet above a mountain lake.

Short stories are wonderful and extremely challenging, and the joy of them, because it only takes me three or four months to write, I can take more risks with them. It's just less of your life invested.

We only get 60 years, if we're really lucky, as adults on earth, and why not try to wake up every day and learn something and talk to people?

Every artist wants an audience, and it's incredible to me how books take on a life of their own and reach people whom you could never meet. That's what got me interested in writing in the first place.

I was a nerdy kid.

Pretty much every night of their lives, my 8-year-old sons have absorbed themselves entirely in books. As toddlers, they pointed out pictures, made conjectures; lately, we find them in their bunk beds embarked upon two-hour comic-reading benders.

You need to be imagining all the time, imagining yourself outside the walls of your own skull.

Lewis Robinson's first novel, 'Water Dogs,' is stuffed with snow. Open practically any page of this book, and crystals will shake out.

I have always felt that it's a little artificial to divide the sciences and the arts on college campuses.

Fridays after school, especially when the weather was lousy, Mom would take me to the library. She'd let me check out whatever I wanted, and I checked out a lot.

I found my first novel difficult. I don't want to make it sound like it's any more difficult than driving a cab or going to any other job, but there are so many opportunities for self-doubt, that you just kind of need to soldier on.

Sometimes, when the neighborhood is silent and the sky is aswarm with the stars and the mind is swirling like a flushed toilet, a person gets to doubting himself. In the hardest times, the stand-at-the-kitchen-sink-and-stare-into-the blackness times, I put on Bob Dylan's 'Tomorrow Is a Long Time.'

We buy a copy of 'Gravity's Rainbow,' say, and we carry our copy home. We open it; we fall into it. And it is here that the word 'copy' fails. Because what I experience when I read 'Gravity's Rainbow,' or 'Beloved,' or 'The Moviegoer,' is not at all a 'copy' of what you experience when you read the same novel.