#MWFDIGITAL: An Evening with Elizabeth Strout

This session was largely focussed on exploring the character of Olive Kitteridge, and while I’m yet to read these two novels, I still found this entire chat wholly delightful. Elizabeth shared the personal observation that she believes all people are complex, even if they don’t think they are. And it’s this complexity that draws readers to Olive Kitteridge. Elizabeth thought that once she’d written the first Olive book, that she’d never return to the character. Olive, however, had her own ideas about that. I really loved the way Elizabeth spoke about Olive, as though she is a real person, not an imagined character at all, but someone who has moved off page and formed their own fully fleshed out life. The chat about Olive really pulsed with affection, it was truly lovely.

In discussing her writing process, I was fascinated to learn that Elizabeth never writes anything from beginning to end. Rather, she writes in scenes. Her process is to sit down and write a scene that has a heartbeat in it, a scene that feels like it has life in it. Over time, she trusts that these scenes will all connect. In terms of putting the scenes together to form the actual novel, Elizabeth says she’s heavy on the discarding. She cites a good day’s work as being one where she looks at yesterday’s work and realises it was bad.

For Elizabeth, the key to writing is in the observation of people. She has always been a people watcher, a habit triggered within by her mother’s own habit of watching people and making observations about them based on their body language and/or actions. Elizabeth says that her mother’s observations would ignite her imagination and she would then create a whole story about someone she had only observed for a few moments.

As a writer, she is propelled forward by the quest to know what it feels like to be another person.

My only disappointment with this session was that it was advertised as running for sixty minutes but only went for thirty-five. I could have listened to Elizabeth for a lot longer and would have loved to hear more about her other books.

I am very keen to read the Olive books, and I have another Strout on my shelf waiting as well, Anything is Possible.


18 thoughts on “#MWFDIGITAL: An Evening with Elizabeth Strout

  1. Pingback: 2020 Melbourne Writers Festival Saturday 15/8/20 | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  2. Pingback: 2020 Melbourne Writers Festival Saturday 15/8/20 | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

  3. I’ve read every one of Strout’s books and on finishing I can’t bear to give any of them away. I was very disappointed in the session being so short. But I did find out one thing that was interesting that was how she brought Isabelle from “Amy and Isabelle“ into “Olive Again”.She makes them seem like real people. I hate to say this but Oprah’s interview with Strout on Apple is much more insightful. I learnt so much about her from that.Perhaps Torney should have watched that one first.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought it was too short. It was the shortest session out of all that I attended throughout the week. I felt that Torney got a bit caught up in asking about Olive this, and Olive that, really specific stuff. When it moved into the writing process, etc. I really loved that more, but alas, it was over too soon.
      Is that on Apple TV? I don’t have that, unfortunately. I feel like I’ve been cheating myself by not reading Strout ever. Any favourites?


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