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08Jan

Always wanted to write? Booker winner George Saunders on how to get started

The Booker winner discusses work, wisdom and the drive to teach, plus seven key tips on how to write well

While George Saunders was writing his latest book, A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, he noticed something strange. The book examines seven Russian short stories, which Saunders has taught on the creative writing course at Syracuse University, New York, for 20 years. Many writers teach, and many have a difficult relationship with teaching, but Saunders long ago “decided to not let it be like that”. He sliced his weeks into three days of teaching, four of writing, a clear division of roles. But when he started the Russian book, however, his two lives merged.

He adopted his “teaching stance” while he wrote, and was amazed by “how much fun” he had. “There’s a different sensibility when I walk into a classroom,” he says. The outward appearance is the same – “sloppy balding hippy” – but “I’m a slightly nicer and less egotistical person”. With this slightly nicer, less egotistical person at the keyboard, interesting things began to happen, and his fiction-writing self “got a real boost”.

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