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ande
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Because a Fire Was in My Head: The Stegners

Lynn: Tell us how being part of the Stegner family has inspired you and influenced your writing.
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lynnstegner
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Re: Because a Fire Was in My Head: The Stegners

Dear Ande,

I'm not sure whether or not this will show up as a duplicate of sorts, as I did write an extended reply to your query only to have it lost somehow in cyberspace.

As far as the Stegner Literary Tribe, it has had its ups and downs, though by far mostly ups. For one thing, I always had two marvelous readers at the ready whenever I had finished a chunk of a book, or needed another set of eyes for a letter or essay, or if I got tangled up in some narrative knot. Wally always said that point of view was the first and most important decision any writer must face, and over the years I have come to agree completely with the assertion. Indeed, it may be that now more than ever, with the culture of narcissism still dogging us to some extent, point of view remains a pressing narrative concern for all writers and readers. My husband, the writer Page Stegner, is also an excellent editor, with emphasis on different aspects of the work, like credible dialogue and narrative pacing. Between Wally and Page and my own somewhat rigorous demands, there was always before me a good solid stretch of uphill improvement possible. The internal family standards were about as high as can be imagined, but so were the external. For instance, when it came time for my agent to shop around my first novel, Undertow, I used my first and middle names only -- Lynn Marie -- as I was concerned that unduly elevated expectations might be applied to what was, after all, a first novel. In due course a publisher indicated its interest and willingness to publish the book, but ironically, they wondered if I might consider changing my name, as they did not think that "Lynn Marie" was a very writerly name. At which point I confessed the truth about my name, and they were, if I recall accurately, trying not to sound as pleased as they really were. Suffice it to say, in the Stegner family what was important was how to make the book the best it could be; as a consequence, praise was sparsely delivered while helpful criticism amply available. This was initially somewhat disconcerting, as I had, by the age of 22, grown accustomed to the role of star pupil. But over the years I have found this to be a soundly advantageous policy, as it has kept me humble before the task at hand, and ever-hungry to be better than I presently am.


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ande
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Re: Because a Fire Was in My Head: The Stegners

Thanks for that insight, Lynn. Sharing a name and sharing a craft can be a lovely thing, but it's often complicated. And I think you explained how and why.

And, of course, Wally is Wallace Stegner, one of the finest authors of the 20th century. I believe you edited a collection of his writing and wrote introductions for one ot two.
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lynnstegner
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Re: Because a Fire Was in My Head: The Stegners

Yes, the collection of writings about writing, entitled Wallace Stegner on Teaching and Writing Fiction, was a heretofore undiscovered cache of mostly unpublished material. Like most writers, Wally (Wallace Stegner) was somewhat superstitious about Talking About It, but he did manage about 200 pages of reflections and observations and advice -- the real stuff. And I wrote a long, critical introduction to his Collected Stories last year, which was published under the Penguin Classics imprint.


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