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.

Anthony Doerr

Anthony Doerr

Profession: Novelist
Nationality: American

Some suggestions for you :

I read Stephen Crane's 'The Open Boat' when I was 11.

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

I originally got very interested in memory in high school when my grandmother came to live with us. She had been diagnosed with dementia. It was the first time I had heard the word 'Alzheimer's disease.'

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

You and I can go on YouTube and learn how to fix a tractor engine or learn Farsi. Groups are using those tools to recruit young people into a climate of hatred.

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.

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

I think some people think that writers read and read and read, get the information, and then write. That's not how it works. Often, you write yourself into a dark place where you don't know what you need to know, so you go get the information.

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.'

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.

It wasn't until I was 26 or 25 when I started sending work out to magazines.

That's the power of fiction, that it can take the collective and make it personal.

'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.

In my early 20s, a friend and I worked for a few months on a sheep farm in New Zealand. Working with ewes, I learned a lot about the power of wool - how it keeps you cool when you're hot, warm when you're cold, dry when you're wet.