Tom Perrotta

On Tuesday, novelist Tom Perrotta came to Salem State University. His book, The Leftovers, was chosen for our First Year Reading Experience and in September he came to campus to speak at convocation. This visit was a follow up of sorts. Tom spoke to my Craft of Fiction class, and then spoke to students and faculty about the The Leftovers later in the afternoon.

Tom gave a terrific Q & A session. And, for someone so accomplished, he was just as generous and gracious as he could be. I jotted down a few words of wisdom that he shared with my class. Here are a few insights.

  • "Writers get less funny as we get older. We're more aware of loss and the shortness of time." (Tom said this in response to the idea that his newer fiction is less funny than his earlier works.)
  • On starting a new piece of fiction, Tom said, "I don't know what I'm getting into, but I try to reminds myself that's a good thing."
  • On writer's block: "Try to follow your story through even if you think it's a boring story. ... And if you get stuck, think about your childhood--it's the one unique thing you own."
  • On writer's block: "I listen for the judicious silence. I don't force the writing--I let it come." 
  • "Question every word, every gesture. Do you need everything you've written?"


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