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.
Author Linn Ulmann makes the case for the importance of here in "Something happened here."
Marcus Burke, author of Team Seven and a former college athlete, learned from Carter G. Woodson that teaching yourself is just as important as being taught in the classroom.
Maggie Shipstead, author of Astonish Me, looks to Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse as an example of how to speed up and slow down fiction narratives effectively.
The Empathy Exams author Leslie Jamison felt ashamed of writing about the physical form until a Virginia Woolf essay vindicated her interest in the fluids and muscles that make us human.
As author Ted Thompson learned from John Cheever, a redemptive resolution doesn't erase the darkness of a story, but instead finds the light within it.
The author of The Woman Upstairs says that writing preserves the worlds we inhabit—even if so much of them dies with us.
John Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown showed author Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski that great work can happen when you write without knowing where you're going.
Author Dinaw Mengestu says good books help you to recognize yourself in the unfamiliar.
Author Yiyun Li doesn't just study people on the subway—she studies her characters, unflinchingly imagining their gaze until she understands them fully.