The Cloud Atlas author keeps a James Wright poem as a reminder to live in the now.
The Wilco singer says Daniel Johnston epitomizes his mostly instinctual creative process.
Novelist Edan Lepucki looks to the subversive metaphors in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for lessons in channeling characters' weird, rebellious spirits.
Using the guard-turned-vandal in The Heart So White as his guide, author Ben Lerner writes books in which characters interact with art, and occasionally try to set it on fire.
Author Stephan Eirik Clark returns to Don DeLillo's White Noise for lessons in interrogating American culture.
Memoirist Sean Wilsey says he knows he's finished with a story when it makes him laugh.
A Midsummer Night's Dream got it right, Richard Bausch says: Authors must find a way to turn nothing into something.
Author Lev Grossman says C.S. Lewis taught him that in fiction, stepping into magical realms means encountering earthly concerns in transfigured form.
Hot Chip singer Alexis Taylor explains why he tries to forget critics—and his own self-consciousness—when creating.
William T. Vollmann, author of Last Stories and Other Stories, explains why he works by an assassin's credo: "Nothing is true; all is permissible."
Author Joshua Ferris used to believe in 'art for art's sake.' Then he read The Human Stain.
Author Tom Perrotta, co-creator of a much-hyped new HBO drama, says Thornton Wilder's play taught him to write about finding meaning in the banal.
Songwriting lessons from the King, as told by indie-rock singer Hamilton Leithauser
Author Stuart Dybek talks about how to layer meaning into works of "flash fiction."
Author Rupert Thomson says a Yevgeny Yevtushenko poem taught him the value of risk.
The UnAmericans author Molly Antopol learned from Grace Paley how to inhabit characters that represent political sentiments but don't preach to readers.
Yes, that John Muir. His observations on nature's interconnected systems deeply influenced award-winning chef Dan Barber's new book, The Third Plate.
Gay, author of An Untamed State and the forthcoming Bad Feminist, sees her own questions of multi-ethnic and multi-national identity reflected in Smith's NW.
Stefan Zweig, the obscure Austrian writer whose life and work inspired The Grand Budapest Hotel, believed imagination could help propel society toward universal tolerance and accord.
Author Mona Simpson talks about Chekhov's "Three Years," which plays on rom-com tropes to convey just how grand a story of two people learning to appreciate each other can be.