January 28, 2020
Interview by Jessica Mack
Elizabeth Berg has always loved books and reading from the time her mother began reading to her, and she’s loved writing ever since she could hold a pencil. Before writing, she was a registered nurse for 10 years, using her experiences of taking care of patients to learn more about human nature and translating that into her writing. Elizabeth will be the opening keynote speaker for the 2020 Let's Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference.
Q: What is your writing process? I see on your website that many of your books are inspired by real-life situations. How does this inspire your writing and the genre you write, and what else assists you in your process?
A: It was E.B. White who famously said that when it came to writing, he didn't like to look under the hood. I feel the same. Writing for me feels like a freefall into trust, and I don't do a lot of planning, in favor of letting books unfold as they want to.
Q: What literary workshops or opportunities do you think have made you a stronger writer?
A: I have belonged to a writer's group for many years, and I find it's awfully helpful to read your work aloud to such a group. You find things you didn't notice in writing, and the group also provides a lot of support—and fun!
Q: As a writer, what inspires you daily to continue writing and have your inspirations changed over the years, or are they the same?
A: Inspiration is everywhere all the time. I think writers are born, not made, and they come into the work with the habit of noticing, a certain sensitivity, constant curiosity, and a need to get what's inside them, out. In part, this is for them to understand how they really feel about things, what things mean to them, how they interpret certain personalities or events.
Q: What accomplishment in your writing life has had the most impact on you as a writer?
A: Being able to finally buy my dad a Cadillac after the Oprah experience which, as you may know, came with a pretty hefty paycheck. More on that at the conference, if desired.
Q: What do you think are the most important elements that make good writing?
A: Avoid imitative writing, stay true to your own vision, have a sense of honesty and truth in your writing, whether it's writing fiction or nonfiction. Also attention to detail and realistic-sounding dialogue.
Q: How does it feel to be the opening keynote speaker? What are you most excited about for the conference?
A: I always am honored to do keynote speeches, no matter where they are. I'm excited to see so many excited writers all gathered together, it brings a great sense of hope.
Bio: Elizabeth Berg is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling writer. Her novel Open House was an Oprah's Book Club pick, and her novels Durable Goods and Joy School were both selected as ALA's best novels of the year. Three of her novels have been turned into television movies, and her novel The Pull of the Moon was adapted into a play that enjoyed sold-out performances in Chicago and Indianapolis. She lives outside Chicago with her partner Bill, two dogs, and a cat. You can visit her decidedly old-fashioned website at elizabeth-berg.net, and she is also on Facebook.
Interested in attending the conference? Visit our conference page to register.
Interview conducted by CWA intern Jessica Mack
Jessica Mack was previously Editor-in-Chief for the Joliet Junior College Blazer, editing and preparing articles for publication and managing a general staff. Under her leadership, the Blazer was 2018 Best-In-Show at the Illinois Community College Journalism Association annual fall contest and received 2018 Awards for Excellence. She is currently working on her Masters of English at DePaul University with a focus on creative writing and hopes to become a book editor.
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