This interview with Grace Paley by Jonathan Dee, Barbara Jones, and Larissa MacFarquhar ran in the Paris Review in 1992. Still of interest.
The best training is to read and write, no matter what. Don’t live with a lover or roommate who doesn’t respect your work. Don’t lie, buy time, borrow to buy time. Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write.
A lot of [my stories] begin with a sentence—they all begin with language. It sounds dopey to say that, but it’s true. Very often one sentence is absolutely resonant…. I begin by writing paragraphs that don’t have an immediate relation to a plot. The sound of the story comes first.
Two things happen when you get older. You have more experience, so you either seem wiser, or you get totally foolish. There are only those two options. You choose one, probably the wrong one.
There’s an idea that there’s this great mainstream, which may be wide but is kind of shallow and slow-moving. It’s the tributaries that seem to have the energy.
You can’t write without a lot of pressure. Sometimes the pressure comes from anger, which then changes into a pressure to write. It’s not so much a matter of getting distance as simply a translation. I felt a lot of pressure writing some of those stories about women. Writers are lucky because when they’re angry, the anger—by habit almost—I wouldn’t say transcends but becomes an acute pressure to write, to tell…. The pressure doesn’t have to be anger. It could be love. One could be overcome with feelings of lifetime love or justice. Why not?
Read the rest here.