• Julia Fierro
  • My PEN American interview featured on Maria Popova's BrainPickings "Explore"
My PEN American interview featured on Maria Popova's BrainPickings "Explore"
Written by
Julia Fierro
September 2013
Written by
Julia Fierro
September 2013

Thrilled to have my "PEN Ten" interview with Julia Fierro featured on Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings project, Explore.

Brain Pickings has long been one of my favorite sources for inspiration—every post informing and revealing. 

Thank you to Lauren Cerand for the thought-provoking questions, and to PEN American Center for their generous support of writers. 

(via explore-blog):

In this PEN interview, Julia Fierro makes a fine addition to the collected wisdom of acclaimed authors.

Pair with E. B. White on the responsibility of the writer.


Q: What is the responsibility of the writer?

Julia Fierro: To tell his or her truth, to reveal his or her unique interpretations of life, while simultaneously reminding the reader of the universality of the human experience—the thread that connects saints and sinners, virgins and whores, and makes every life as redeemable as the next, no matter how grotesque or unlikable they and their actions may seem.

If there is one “maxim” I believe in when it comes to writing, it is this: the writer has a responsibility not just to the reader, but even more so to his or her characters. If a writer feels compassion for his or her characters, those characters’ needs and fears will seem authentic. The reader will find it is impossible to dismiss the characters, even the most “unlikable,” whose actions and motivations the reader wants to find unacceptable. Their redemption in that practice of acceptance has the potential to reach outside the time it takes to read the book. When a reader spots even the tiniest glimmer of his or herself (a shared desire or vulnerability, a habit or preoccupation) in a character they want to hate, it feels to me as if a life is saved, even if it is a fictional life. Humanity as a whole is strengthened. There shouldn’t be “collateral damage” in real life—I believe the same goes for literature.

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