The Pen is Still Mightier

December 1, 2017  • Aspen Words

This year, Aspen Words presented some of the best writers of contemporary literature at its annual Winter Words author series and Summer Words writing conference. Authors of fiction, memoir, and poetry shared their take on literature’s role in society, the impact of history on storytelling, and their best advice for aspiring writers. Below are just a few highlights.

In the age of not only fake news but fake everything else, we need literary writing more than ever, because that’s the kind of writing that by definition is trying to depict the human condition as accurately as possible with all the layers of complexity, ambiguity, confusion, and uncertainty that go into human experience.
—Ben Fountain, Summer Words 2017 faculty and author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
People who put words on the page have to be careful, because those words have power. Words on the page can give someone license not only to hate but to carry out the act of hatred.
—Chinelo Okparanta, Summer Words 2017 faculty and author of Under the Udala Trees
Life fires a storm of emotion at us every day, and we have to try and organize it in some way. That’s what writers do.
—Adam Gopnik, Winter Words 2017 and author of At the Stranger’s Gate
For every horrible thing that happens in the book, there’s an equal or worse thing that happened to a real person. You can’t lose sight of that.
—Yaa Gyasi, Winter Words 2017 and author of Homegoing
When you go into a bookstore, you see democracy at work, because the first rule of being a great writer is giving voice to people unlike you.
—Azar Nafisi, Winter Words 2017 and author of The Republic of Imagination
The story wasn’t so much as hidden as it was unseen. I needed the story. Not the history. The story.
—Margot Lee Shetterly, Aspen Words Summer Benefit 2017 and author of Hidden Figures
If I only sat down to write when I felt inspired, I’d only have a haiku to my name.
—Dani Shapiro, Summer Words 2017 faculty and author of Hourglass