Get to Know… Susan Orlean

Posted: 04 July 2019 Author: sikuska

Our Early Bird tickets are now on sale and the first round of speakers has been revealed. In this series we chat to these authors, artists and activists to get to know them a little better before they join us in October. This week we speak to Susan Orlean, author of eight books, including international bestsellers The Library Book, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award-winning film Adaptation.

When and why did you start writing?

I started writing when I was really young — I wrote little books when I was about six or seven. My life as a professional writer began right after college, when I got a job at a small magazine that was just starting up in Portland, Oregon. I have always been drawn to telling stories, so writing was as natural to me as breathing, and I knew I just had to do it.

“I have always been drawn to telling stories, so writing was as natural to me as breathing, and I knew I just had to do it.”

What’s the most extraordinary place your writing has taken you to?

I went to Bhutan and traveling to a variety of fertility festivals with a group of women who were trying to get pregnant. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and the fertility festivals were… amazing.

What’s your favorite part of the writing process, and least favorite?

I love the research phase of writing — the feeling of discovery and the gradual emergence of the story’s themes and rhythms. My least favorite part is writing endings. I love writing ledes, but endings fill me with dread.

What issues and ideas are you hoping to explore during UWRF19?

I want to explore the idea of how all of us are storytellers, and how fundamental storytelling is to who we are as a culture.

Who do you hope will be in the audience?

Everyone! Writers and non-writers alike; people who are curious and people who are skeptical; everyone of every age and nationality.

What’s your advice for aspiring writers?

Read great writers and use them as your teachers: Examine the mechanism of their work and apply what you learn to your own. Cultivate your own curiosity and learn how to keep it stoked.

For readers unfamiliar with your work, what do you suggest they start with? Either The Orchid Thief or The Library Book. For something shorter, “The American Man, Age Ten”.

What are you working on now? Where to next for your writing?

I’m adapting The Library Book for television, which is a whole new experience for me. And I’ve got a long list of magazine pieces I’m eager to write.

Website | Twitter: @susanorlean | Instagram: @susanorlean 

Eager to hear more from Susan Orlean? Pick up your Early Bird ticket now, saving you 20% on the regular price of a 4-Day Pass. Stay tuned for our full lineup announcement in mid-August.  

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