Maggie Shipstead on awe, detail & leaps of faith

Maggie Shipstead is the New York Times-bestselling author of the novels Seating Arrangements, Astonish Me, and Great Circle, and the winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize and the L.A. Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, and the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Great Circle is currently longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021. Shipstead’s writing has appeared in many places, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Wall Street Journal, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Condé Nast Traveler, Outside, The Best American Short Stories, and The Best American Sports Writing. She lives in Los Angeles.

We discuss how Maggie Shipstead:

  • learned writing with Zadie Smith
  • met her agent
  • expands short stories into novels
  • takes leaps of faith. She says: ‘hopefully I’ll be able to solve whatever problems I create’
  • approaches research
  • adjusted expectations of the length of time it took to write a novel
  • reached a point of anxiety and exhaustion two years in to writing Great Circle and realised ‘the only way out was through’
  • creates the ‘hyper specific details’ Brandon Taylor refers to in his conversation with her
  • uses Scrivener to ‘see’ her novel
  • gained perspective from being ‘away’ from the literary world
  • writes for travel magazines (including this Modern Love article)
  • deals with expectations of herself and her own work

Maggie shares the best writing advice she ever received:

‘Follow the interest’

Maggie recommends the debut novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

Follow Maggie Shipstead on instagram or check our her writing and travel videos on her website.

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