Strong also teaches at Columbia University and Bates College
April 2023 – Writers@Drew welcomed Lynn Steger Strong, author of the novels Hold Still, Want, and a new family saga titled Flight to Drew University to read from her works and answer questions.
The author has also published criticism in the New York Times, New York Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, the Los Angeles Times, and The New Republic. In addition to writing, Strong teaches at Columbia University and is a visiting fiction writer at Bates College.
With great energy and enthusiasm, Strong read a series of conversations from her most recent books, Flight and Want. One excerpt focused on a woman who declares bankruptcy and then has to attend a child’s birthday party. The subsequent excerpts followed a woman as she spoke to her mom on the phone. The readings gave the audience clear insight into Strong’s style of writing.
After the readings, the author was asked a series of questions by the moderator, Courtney Zoffness, assistant professor of English, as well as by students, faculty, and staff in the audience.
One student asked what kind of characters Strong is most drawn to portraying. The author said that she is intrigued by characters that feel real in that no one is simply good or bad but both. She also stated her fondness for rendering women, mothers, and children in her writing.
Strong was then asked about her planning and revision process, and explained that her process is not a linear one. She does not use outlines or make a plan. She used the phrase “chaos and control” to describe her process, explaining how she often starts with an idea involving a group of people and to turn that idea into a story, she puts these people in conversation. She will then write a first draft, eventually retyping it from scratch. When she encounters ideas that won’t fit into her current book, she jots down the overflow for a future book. Novel writing, she said, a process of trial and error.
Asked what she appreciates about novel form, Strong described the pleasurable process of accumulating details and shaping a narrative. She explained how stories often have an “explosion” or climax and her job as a fiction writer is to make the moment of explosion clear to the reader, no matter how big or small it is.
To end, Strong expanded on her statement, “I always want to be writing a book that feels like the hardest book to write.”
“Art is about jumping off cliffs,” she said. One has to be willing for the writing to be messy at the beginning, which she considers the fun part.
The free event was co-sponsored by The Casement Fund and the English Department.
This event was covered and photographed by Sarah Szuchman C’24. She is a psychology major and photography minor.