New Yorker Magazine writer and novelist Susan Orlean, recently spoke at the NYU Literary Reportage program, where she shared information about her writing process both as a long-form journalist and author.
Orlean has written for New Yorker Magazine since 1992. She has also written articles for Vogue, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside.
She is the author of several books, including The Orchid Thief, which was fictionalized as the feature film, Adaptation. She also wrote an article for Women's Outside, "Life's Swell", which was later adapted into the film, Blue Crush.
As a writer I recognize the importance of learning everything I can from writers (both published and unpublished) who have walked the road I am walking now. However, i also recognize the importance of finding my own style and using my own voice with every word I put on paper.
How about you?
NYU’s Literary Reportage director Robert Boynton sat opposite Orlean on stage. They spoke about their meeting in 2004 when Orlean first had the idea for Rin Tin Tin. Since that time, Orlean has traveled to Texas, California and France in order to trace back the history of how this dog became a Hollywood legend. She said that the research was more far-reaching than The Orchid Thief, because it was archival, rather than having sources in the “here and now.”
From the front of the room, Orlean grinned about her struggles as a writer and talked about how Rin Tin Tin seemed like an obvious choice for a novel (despite outside ‘why write about a dog?’ scrutiny). She claims how simply sitting and thinking was essential to her writing process. And, when all else fails, Orlean quipped, “at least I still know English.”
The past few years have been eventful. She got married, had a baby, and moved to Upstate New York. There, she bought chickens, guinea fowl and a number of other farm animals. “Dogs are like a gateway animal,” she joked.