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Member Spotlight: Joe Milan Jr.

author Joe Milan, Jr and his book The All-American

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Writing and reading are the closest anyone will ever get to telepathy. That’s why it has a chance at building empathy, because if you still don’t get what it’s like to be someone else after crawling around in the reaches of their imagination, then I suppose hallucinogenic drugs are your only other hope.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Complaining: first to others, and once I’ve worn out my welcome, to myself in a sort of freewriting session of despair. Eventually, it becomes, “What should I write?” And then, I respond with something like, “Well, I’m writing about how this bunny from my fever dream is actually the embodiment of bravery or a symptom of head trauma. I need to write the opening, something snazzy like…” And off I go into the wilderness.

What is your favorite time to write? First thing in the morning, after sips of coffee, before thoughts, worries, and expectations stiffen my writing into something boring, and akin to madcap aping of the news.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? You only learn to write with your voice by deliberately practicing the writing you love. If you love TRUE GRIT (which you should), then you should spend time copying by hand a few scenes. Then, as you slow down your writing to this speed, ask yourself, “What is Portis doing here? Why? Where does the scene start and stop? How does he keep the voice alive? When do the details hit, and not?” After doing this, write your notes your understanding of the piece. And then, test it against some lousy writing (perhaps your early drafts) to see if those prior observations and experiences help you solve a problem you were grappling with. Ultimately, this process is about deliberate practice, which many intelligent people have written about.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Being rejected at the speed of light is perhaps the biggest benefit of our moment. Cheaper than SASE and quicker too. Same with acceptances. Jokes aside, I think it’s lovely to be in a moment where so many more people from many more backgrounds have a shot at getting published. And if you think your work isn’t getting a fair shake, you can go off and self-publish.

Joe Milan Jr.’s The All-American is out now with ‎ W. W. Norton & Company.