The Writing Process promo image of Zinzi Clemmons

01:02 Novelist Zinzi Clemmons

With her What We Lose, Zinzi Clemmons had the breakthrough debut novel you might dream of.

Upon its release last year, Vogue called it the ‘debut novel of the year;’ Vanity Fair called it “powerful” and the Atlantic called it “striking.” She was named a National Book Award 5 Under 35 Honoree, and the New York Times profiled her.

Though she is exceptional for these and other reasons (prestigious universities, born of a mixed-race South African immigrant mother), Zinzi has plenty to offer other writers by way of advice. It helps that she teaches writing at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

In this second episode of the Writing Process, we consider some of this ground:

  • What an MFA can and can’t do for writers who want to be published: go forth with intention.
  • The years-old construct of “MFA vs. NYC” is primarily about what you want to get done
  • How to get the most of a writer’s workshop (hint: listen to what feedback give to other people and decide if you agree with it)
  • When writing a novel, listen to music, watch movies and let it “count” toward your writing
  • In editing, you must seek out where you have inadvertently allowed yourself to leak out unhelpfully into your characters. Then remove these passages.

Watch this recent interview Zinzi had following the release of the book’s paperback issue. Find Zinzi Clemmons on Twitter here.