Happy Birthday, Amy Hempel, born 14 December 1951
- I want to know everything about you, so I tell you everything about myself.
- A story happens when two equally appealing forces, or characters, or ideas try to occupy the same place at the same time, and they’re both right.
- Transitions are usually not that interesting. I use space breaks instead, and a lot of them.
- Sometimes I can better describe a person by another person’s reaction. In a story in my first book, I couldn’t think of a way to sufficiently describe the charisma of a certain boy, so the narrator says, “I knew girls who saved his gum.”
- I get rational when I panic.
- I’ll turn a sentence over endlessly in my head before it hits the page. By the time it’s on the page, it’s pretty likely to stay there.
- Journalism taught me how to write a sentence that would make someone want to read the next one. You are trained to get rid of anything non-essential. You go in, you start writing your article, assuming a person’s going to stop reading the minute you give them a reason. So the trick is: don’t give them one.
- A love affair begins with a fantasy. For instance, that the beloved will always be there.
- There’s so much I can’t read because I get so exasperated. Someone starts describing the character boarding the plane and pulling the seat back. And I just want to say, Babe, I have been downtown. I have been up in a plane. Give me some credit.
- There’s no such thing as luck. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.
- [My mother] read constantly, so I read constantly. If I used words that might have seemed surprising at a young age, she would recognise that and it would please her. We could talk about what we read—that was safe territory. This was the way I had a chance of getting her approval. Language. Language and literature.
- Wear your heart on the page, and people will read to find out how you solved being alive.
- I started writing by doing small related things but not the thing itself, circling it and getting closer. I had no idea how to write fiction. So I did journalism because there were rules I could learn. You can teach someone to write a news story. They might not write a great one, but you can teach that pretty easily.
- Dreams: the place most of us get what we need.
- I’ve always known when I start a story what the last line is. It’s always been the case, since the first story I ever wrote. I don’t know how it’s going to get there, but I seem to need the destination. I need to know where I end up. It never changes, ever.
Amy Hempel is an American short story writer, journalist, and teaches creative writing at Bennington College and at Harvard University. She is the author of Reasons to Live.
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