Lawrence Watson interview with David Alan Binder

posted Aug 10, 2016, 7:47 PM by David Alan Binder

Lawrence Watson interview with David Alan Binder

Short Bio from his website:  Larry Watson received his BA and MA from the University of North Dakota, his Ph.D. from the creative writing program at the University of Utah, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Ripon College. Watson has received grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (1987, 2004) and the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Larry Watson is the author of the novels AS GOOD AS GONE, LET HIM GO, MONTANA 1948, AMERICAN BOY, IN A DARK TIME, WHITE CROSSES, LAURA, ORCHARD, and SUNDOWN, YELLOW MOON; the fiction collection JUSTICE; and the chapbook of poetry LEAVING DAKOTA. Watson’s fiction has been published in ten foreign editions, and has received prizes and awards from Milkweed Press, Friends of American Writers, Mountain and Plains Booksellers Association, Mountain and Plains Library Association, New York Public Library, Wisconsin Library Association, Critics’ Choice, and The High Plains Book Award. The movie rights to MONTANA 1948 and JUSTICE have been sold to Echo Lake Productions and WHITE CROSSES and ORCHARD have been optioned for film.

He has published short stories and poems in Gettysburg Review, New England Review, North American Review, Mississippi Review, and other journals and quarterlies. His essays and book reviews have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and other periodicals. His work has also been anthologized in Essays for Contemporary Culture, Imagining Home, Off the Beaten Path, Baseball and the Game of Life, The Most Wonderful Books, These United States, Writing America, and West of 98.

Watson taught writing and literature at the University of Wisconsin/
Stevens Point for 25 years before joining the faculty at Marquette. He has also taught and participated in writer’s conferences in Colorado, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, St. Malo and Caen, France, and elsewhere.


 1.     Where are you currently living?

I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and teach at Marquette University.


2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

To pay close attention to every word, both because I want to make certain I choose the right word and because sometimes our writing is trying to tell us something. And we want to receive the message that it might be sending.

 3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

I try never to begin subsequent paragraphs with the same word. Is that interesting? It’s probably nothing more than superstition.


4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

I don’t have any experience with self-publishing. It’s a route that has worked well for many writers.

         a.     Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?

My current publisher is Algonquin Books. Algonquin has offices in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and New York City.

 5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Anything that delivers books to readers is okay with me. I’m not sure I know what the alternative vs. conventional publishing distinction is, but anything that gets the words on the page and delivers that page to readers is also fine with me.

 6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?      

Write the best book you can. But that’s pretty obvious. There’s no secret about that.


7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

If you read a book by an author who has written a book similar to yours, and if the author thanks his or her agent in the acknowledgments, you now have the name of an agent who might be receptive to your work.

 8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

At some point, writers need to know something about literary markets. If you write poetry, literary fiction, creative nonfiction, or memoir, publications like POETS & WRITERS and THE WRITER’S CHRONICLE can help in that regard. Literary magazines and websites like NEW PAGES can also be very helpful.

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

In my admittedly limited experience, I haven’t found that editors make suggestions that require extensive rewriting or suggestions that must be followed if the writer doesn’t agree with them.

10.                        How many books have you written?

I’ve published ten books, but I’ve written a few others that haven’t been published. Maybe I’ll return to them; maybe not.

     11.                        Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?

No tricks. And my tip is pretty simple: Don’t cheat on your art.


12.                        Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

No, I don’t. I’m not sure I want twists. I want something unexpected only in the sense that people sometimes behave in unexpected ways. But that behavior still has to be made believable.

13.            What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

                 I hope anything I write is distinctive in this regard: I wrote it. That is, I’ve found something in                     my self—unique in that we are all unique beings—that I’ve been able to bring to the creation                     of the work.


14.                        What are some ways in which you promote your work?

             When it comes to promotion, publicity, and marketing, I leave it to the professionals. I only do the             events—conferences, conventions, and bookstore events—that my publisher arranges.


15.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

I can’t think of anything. I’ve been very lucky and very happy with how things have worked out.


16.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?

“Nulla dies sine linea” (Not a day without a line [drawn], a quote attributed to Appelles, a painter in ancient Greece.) I write every day.