Feb. 10, 2021

#18 Several Short Sentences About Writing: A Masterclass on Becoming a Better Writer | Verlyn Klinkenborg, Author & Yale Professor

#18 Several Short Sentences About Writing: A Masterclass on Becoming a Better Writer | Verlyn Klinkenborg, Author & Yale Professor

Why is writing simply and clearly so difficult? I sat down with Verlyn Klinkenborg, who teaches creative writing at Yale, to find out. We explore his incredibly popular book Several Short Sentences About Writing, his approach to reading, and why everything we’ve been taught about writing is wrong.

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“So what I do now is essentially help students escape from their education. That's my enterprise every year. And it's always fun, because they escape quite readily. They all know that what they're making in their classes is an artificial product that doesn't actually have any particular interest for anyone except them.” – Verlyn Klinkenborg 

In this episode of Outliers, I’m talking with Verlyn Klinkenborg (@verlynklinkenborg) about what he’s learned from years of farm life, his reading habits, and why writing simply can be so difficult (hint: keep your sentences short).

Verlyn Klinkenborg is the author of six books, including The Last Fine Time, winner of the American Book Award, and The Rural Life, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He was a member of the editorial board of The New York Times for 16 years, where he published a regular column on rural life. His articles have appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Esquire, National Geographic, and Mother Jones. He has taught literature and creative writing at Fordham University, Bard College, and Harvard University, and most recently at Yale University.

Show notes with links, quotes, and a transcript of the episode:https://www.danielscrivner.com/notes/verlyn-klinkenborg-outliers-show-notes  

Chapters in this interview:

  • 00:00:35 – Rural life and the “home place”
  • 00:03:56 – Raising animals and eating meat
  • 00:09:20 – Learnings from farm life and work
  • 00:13.48 – Verlyn’s reading habits
  • 00:19:51 – Physical vs. digital books
  • 00:26:53 – Verlyn’s book Several Short Sentences About Writing
  • 00:33:01 – What is academic prose?
  • 00:38:21 – Why people should use shorter sentences in writing
  • 00:42:56 – Finding rhythm in writing
  • 00:47:01 – Self authorization and noticing the world around you
  • 00:53:38 – Writing cliches that are untrue
  • 00:58:16 – What to expect from a class with Verlyn
  • 01:04:56 – Writing is rooted in experience more than language


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