Anthony Doerr: On McSweeney’s, Word Counts, and the Commercial Process

September 14, 2010

“It never would have occurred to me to set something in the future,” Anthony Doerr says, if the editors of McSweeney’s hadn’t challenged a number of writers to set stories in 2024. Other contributors to McSweeney’s 32 include Jim Shepard, Wells Tower, Heidi Julavits, and Salvador Plascencia.

“Memory Wall,” the title piece in Doerr’s new collection, wound up running almost 20,000 words—and winning the National Magazine Award for fiction. Here he describes its genesis, aided mightily by the direction and uncommon freedom that McSweeney’s provided.

More Anthony Doerr
Official web site
Press archives
The Writers’ Block interview (audio)
Writers on Process interview
Online interview (Washington Post)
On Memory Wall (Boise Weekly)
Getting Rich on Fungus (NY Times Op-Ed)
Review of Memory Wall (New York Times)
Review of Memory Wall (Edmonton Journal)
Review of Memory Wall (Oregonian)
Anthony Doerr, Am I Still Here (video)
Anthony Doerr, Butterflies (video)
Cloudy Is the Stuff of Stones (essay, Orion Magazine)
Phantoms and Prey (essay, OnEarth)

Memory Wall

Anthony Doerr is the author of four books, The Shell Collector, About Grace, Four Seasons in Rome, and, most recently, Memory Wall.

Doerr’s short fiction has won three O. Henry Prizes and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, and The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Fiction. He has won the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize, the Rome Prize, the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Fiction Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an NEA Fellowship, the National Magazine Award for Fiction, two Pushcart Prizes, and two Ohioana Book Awards. His books have been a New York Times Notable Book, an American Library Association Book of the Year, a ‘Book of the Year’ in the Washington Post, and a finalist for the PEN USA fiction award. In 2007, the British literary magazine Granta placed Doerr on its list of 21 Best Young American novelists.

Doerr lives in Boise, Idaho with his wife and two sons. He teaches now and then in the low-residency MFA program at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. His book reviews have appeared in the New York Times and Der Spiegel, and he writes a regular column on science books for the Boston Globe. Though he is often asked, as far as he knows he is not related to the late writer Harriet Doerr.

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