George Saunders is the author of nine books, including the novel Lincoln in the Bardo, which won the 2017 Booker Prize.
He has also written two story collections, Pastoralia and Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2013 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and was included in Time’s list of the one hundred most influential people in the world.
‘When I teach at Syracuse, I’m trying to tell my students that the first move that most of us make when we write is we put up a front. We’re trying to imitate the beloved writers that we’ve known. That doesn’t actually work, even if you imitate Rushdie really, really well, you’re not Rushdie. Go ahead and do that and you’ll be frustrated because you’ll feel that you’re a light version of that writer. And at some critical moment, you’ll start to really squirm because the things you actually know in your life aren’t showing up on the page. So at that moment I will say to them, “How are you charming in real life? Is that there? If you’re a funny person, are you being funny? If you’re somebody who is a great listener, is your great listening making it onto the page?” And that’s really the moment where a young writer will sometimes make a leap. And it was, for me, such a relief because instead of keeping your best gifts outside the door, you let them in and you’re just yourself. The problem is, you can’t simply decide, “Oh, what are my charms? I’ll make a list.” It’s much more intuitive, and it takes a lot of rewriting, I think, to get there. But it starts with a feeling of frustration, that what you really know or care about is not showing up in your work.’