Wally Lamb

Literary Birthday – 17 October – Wally Lamb

Happy Birthday, Wally Lamb, born 17 October 1950.


  1. Accept what people offer. Drink their milkshakes. Take their love.
  2. I thought about how love was always the thing that did that – smashed into you, left you raw. The deeper you loved, the deeper it hurt.
  3. When I was an MFA student at Vermont College for the Fine Arts, my teacher, Gladys Swan, told me I should never write for a preconceived audience. Rather, I should write for myself and have the faith that the audience that was meant to find my story would find it. She also told me that I was never going to write a completely original story because the world was a very old place, and so all the stories that people need to be told have been in the culture since ancient times. The best I could do, Gladys said, was to put my own modern spin on the archetypal stories that people always need. Study ancient myth, she was telling me; those stories have withstood the test of time because they speak to the human condition. I’ve studied myth ever since and could not have written the novels I have without having done so.
  4. Fiction writing is a strange business when you think about it. You sit down and weave a network of lies to explore deeper truths.
  5. Human behaviour in the midst of hardship caught my attention very early on, and my first stories were all pictures, no words.
  6. I think I write fiction for the opportunity to get beyond the limits of my own life.
  7. I like to write first-person because I like to become the character I’m writing.
  8. ‘Look, don’t just stare at the pages,’ I used to tell my students. ‘Become the characters. Live inside the book.’
  9. Power, wrongly used, defeats the oppressor as well as the oppressed.
  10. Life’s absurd. Live authentically. Stop whining.
  11. I start out with a character whose voice intrigues and worries me. I let that character lead me into the story. Along the way I have to write the person’s backstory, discover the person’s childhood. It’s sort of a meandering way to write. It certainly has its built-in frustrations. The more deeply I care about the character, the more I wonder if the person is going to be okay.
  12. I don’t really love to write. I’m not waking up in the morning and springing up in bed and saying ‘Oh yeah, here I go!’ It’s more like I’m worrying the characters through the story.

Wally Lamb is an American author, He is best-known as the writer of the novels, She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True. He taught Creative Writing at the University of Connecticut until 1999. From 1999 to the present, Lamb has facilitated a writing program for incarcerated women at the York Correctional Institute.

Source for Image


Wes Washington, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

by Amanda Patterson

Please click here for our Literary Birthday Calendar

Posted on: 17th October 2013