Suspend Your Disbelief

Celeste Ng

Editor at Large

Celeste Ng is the author of the novels Everything I Never Told You  (2014) and Little Fires Everywhere (2017). She earned an MFA from the University of Michigan (now the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan), where she won the Hopwood Award. Her fiction and essays have appeared in One Story, TriQuarterly, Bellevue Literary Review, the Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of the Pushcart Prize, the Massachusetts Book Award, the American Library Association’s Alex Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


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What Don Draper is reading…

I am an unabashed Mad Men fan, and this past season was possibly the best—but I will admit that a few times, I was able to tear my eyes from Don Draper in PJs to look at the book in his hands. You know you’re a word-nerd when you watch TV and realize you’re scoping out what the characters are reading. Leave it to Flavorwire to compile the actual reading lists of Rory Gilmore, Don Draper, Daria (whoa ’90s flashback) and more. Rory reads The Bell Jar. Don reads The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. Daria reads Being […]

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And the gold medal in writing goes to…

You read that right. Did you know the Olympics used to offer medals in the arts—including creative writing? Mental Floss has the story: The rules for the five [arts] events, which were far less restrictive than the original guidelines drafted for the 1908 Games, were published in September 1911. Among them: All works presented were required to be original and directly inspired by the idea of sport. Size didn’t matter, except for sculptors, who were required to submit “small models not larger than eighty centimeters in height, width, and length.” While there were no language restrictions, the jury—a multinational collection […]

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Texts from famous authors (and characters)

I get a childish delight out of anachronistic mashups, so the Paris Review’s drunk texts from Gertrude Stein, Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, and more are right in my wheelhouse: Read the full set on the Paris Review‘s site. Meanwhile, on The Hairpin, Mallory Ortberg imagines texts from Jane Eyre–the character: JANE WHERE HAVE YOU GONE I AM BEREFT AND WITHOUT MY JANE I SHALL SINK INTO ROGUERY i am with my cousins WHICH COUSIN IS IT THE SEXY ONE Please don’t try to talk to me again IT IS YOUR SEXY COUSIN “ST. JOHN” WHAT KIND OF A NAME IS […]

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tl;dr? Not for a semicolon lover.

If you’re a semicolon kind of guy (or gal), you’re not alone: Ben Dolnick, writing in the New York Times, tells the story of his love affair with that much-misused punctuation mark: My disdain for semicolons outlasted my devotion to Vonnegut. Well into college I avoided them, trusting in the keyboard’s adjacent, unpretentious comma and period to divvy up my thoughts. I imagined that, decades hence, if some bright-eyed teenager were to ask me for advice, I’d pass Vonnegut’s prohibition right along, minus the troublesome bit about transvestites and hermaphrodites. By now I’d come across Isaac Babel’s famous description of […]

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Shout-Out: Erika Dreifus on remembering the Munich Olympics

Over at The Jewish Daily Forward, FWR Contributing Editor Erika Dreifus has written a moving piece about the murder of Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics of 1972 and how this event found their way into her fiction. Erika writes about how her classmates challenged her use of this history: When I workshopped “Homecomings,” several classmates thought that my inclusion of the 1972 Munich Olympics was extraneous. The story of Jewish refugees returning to their homeland was “powerful enough,” they argued. My story “didn’t need” the added layer of history I’d given it. Incredulous, I broke the cardinal workshop rule […]

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"I can't send this to a random house…"

Author Maureen Johnson went to the FedEx store to mail a package to her publisher. Absurdist comedy ensued: FEDEX GUY spins package around, examines label, frowns. FEDEX GUY: I can’t send this. MAUREEN stares, waiting for further explanation. When none is forthcoming, she spins the package back around and looks at the label, because apparently she is going to have to figure out what it is that she didn’t put on it. Because it’s not just a delivery service-it’s a TEST OF WITS. Finding no blank spaces, she feels like a bit of a FedEx failure. MAUREEN: Why? FEDEX: (very […]

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What your favorite punctuation mark says about you

A friend of mine once admitted to being obsessed with dashes. She said it like she was admitting to a clandestine affair–bashfully yet boldly: “I LOVE the dash.” When she said that, I felt a pang of jealousy. For I, too, love the dash, and I am not good at sharing things I love. Perhaps you, too, adore a particular piece of punctuation: the workhorse comma, the sophisticated semicolon, the much-maligned interrobang. Author Leah Petersen (via) offers a humorous guide to what this favorite punctuation mark says about you: Period (.): Type A personality. You are decisive and clear. You […]

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On author crushes

While talking with a fellow writer–call her A—I described a friend—call him B—as looking like “a young Charles Baxter.” A’s eyes lit up. “Really?” she said. “So he’s really hot?” This was not precisely what I had meant, but the truth is that Charles Baxter is the kind of writer who inspires serious literary crushes—which I think might be the most powerful kind of crush in existence. Adoration of a story well told, and all the emotions that the best writing stirs up, combines with adoration of the prose itself—the signature stylistic quirks that are as idiosyncratic as a beloved […]

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On Writing Blind

I just finished teaching for the term, and this past class was a bit unusual: I had two legally blind students. All of my students were phenomenal, but I was particularly floored by the dedication of those two—one of whom did the class reading by listening to his computer read the stories aloud. This all got me thinking about the many things I take for granted, including the ability to stare at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike. Voice recognition software has come a long way, but it’s still not the smoothest tool for writers, as novelist Justine […]