I met Meg Wolitzer in Iceland. (How great is an opener is that sentence? I could hardly have invented better words to pass myself off as some sort of globetrotting, namedropping force.) I am going to have to tarnish the portrayal of my image a bit by fessing up that I didn’t just serendipitously encounter her traipsing up an Icelandic glacier or pounding bourbon in a Reykjavík bar; Meg was mentoring a group of aspiring writers at a conference, one of whom was me. But still. We have stayed in touch through the publication of my own novel this February and I am thrilled to be able to ask her a few writerly questions.
The Female Persuasion is everywhere. I’ve seen it in the airport and heard it on NPR; it’s the inaugural pick for the new B&N Book Club; The New Yorker just wrote about it. You cannot be a book nerd and ignore this novel, and you certainly cannot overlook it if you are a female book nerd or a feminist.
Here’s the description:
To be admired by someone we admire – we all yearn for this: the private, electrifying pleasure of being singled out by someone of esteem. But sometimes it can also mean entry to a new kind of life, a bigger world. Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a pillar of the women’s movement for decades. Upon hearing Faith speak, Greer feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites her to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from the future she’d always imagined. Charming and wise, knowing and witty, this is a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition.
Meg has long been established as a brilliant, relevant writer (see her bio, below). The Female Persuasion is one of those books that is going to inspire various forms of passion: people are going to debate and laud and love it. I can’t wait for y’all to read it.
Without further ado, meet Meg!
Kimmery Martin: Tell us about one book that made an impact on you.
Meg Wolitzer: Mrs. Bridge, by Evan S. Connell, which is a 1959 novel about an upper-middle-class woman and her conventional life before World War II in Kansas City. It’s a brilliant, funny, sad novel, and I recently wrote a celebration of it for the Enthusiast column in the New York Times, because I want everyone to read it.
KM: Where do you love to be?
MW: At home in bed, starting a new novel. (When I say “starting” a novel, I hope you know I mean starting to read someone else’s book, not starting to write my own…)
KM: Which talent do you wish you had?
MW: I would love to play the piano, but I don’t, aside from “Baby Elephant Walk.” I do like to sing, and the idea of drifting over to the piano in the middle of a writing day, and playing and singing a few Broadway songs only for myself, sounds really gratifying right now.
KM: When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
MW: A writer. Though briefly, during one summer at performing arts camp when I was fifteen, I had a dream of being an actor. However, because I spoke all my lines, regardless of the play, in a sort of bad imitation of Katharine Hepburn’s voice, that wasn’t likely to happen.
KM: What time of day do you love best?
MW: Mornings. There is such a hopefulness about them, and you can organize your writing thoughts, and feel as though anything is possible.
KM: What is your advice for aspiring writers?
MW: I think one good thing you can do when the work isn’t going as well as you’d like is to re-read a passage from a published book that you feel the author was very excited by when he or she was writing it. Sometimes, connecting to the excitement and invention of another writer can help you remind yourself of that same feeling within yourself.
Meg Wolitzer is the New York Times bestselling author of The Interestings, The Uncoupling, The Ten-Year Nap, The Position, and The Wife. Her new novel, The Female Persuasion, been named a most-anticipated book of the year by Time Magazine, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, and more. She was the guest editor of The Best American Short Stories 2017, and lives in New York City.
Learn more about Meg on her website.
*This article was originally published on The Debutante Ball.*