Countdown to Muse 2019: Impossible Writing by Michelle Hoover

The Muse and the Marketplace 2019 kicks off on April 5th at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston. This year’s theme is writing in a time of upheaval — whether such upheaval is personal, political, artistic, or all of the above. In anticipation of the conference, we’ve asked Muse 2019 presenting authors to describe a time when it was impossible for them to write, but they wrote anyway. How did they do it? What did they write? Our next presenter in the series is Michelle Hoover author of Bottomland and The Quickening.



After the 2016 election, I wasn’t the only writer to lament how difficult it felt to work in a moral and rational vacuum, but to wring my hands also seemed the very mark of American privilege, while a great majority outside our borders face far worse. Instead, why not use the shock to test the relevance of what we do? The worry abuzz at the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference after 9/11 was the same: Is poetry dead? What stories are worthy? How dare we sit alone at our little desks and churn out dreams while the world outside burns?

The answer for me: Write what matters.

If what I put on the page doesn’t in some way challenge, instruct, shake up, soothe, inspire—if it doesn’t move the reader in a meaningful way, I’m not reaching deep enough. I’ve found the same to be true when writing in the wake of great loss and change: put my work to the test.

While I can’t claim my writing does matter, I’ve nonetheless tackled greater themes: xenophobia, feminism, poverty, beauty, labor and the treatment of death itself. Hopefully, some of what I do feels meaningful to the reader on the other end.


You can catch Michelle’s craft discussion, “Lessons from the Novel Incubator” on Saturday, April 6th at 1:00pm and “She's Terrible, and I Love Her: On ‘Unlikable’ Female Characters” on Sunday, April 7th at 10:00am at the Muse. For all the latest Muse news, follow #Muse19.

Michelle Hoover is the Fannie Hurst Writer-in-Residence at Brandeis University and teaches at GrubStreet, where she leads the Novel Incubator program. She is a 2014 NEA Fellow and has been a Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell Fellow, and a winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Her debut, The Quickening, was a 2010 Massachusetts Book Award "Must Read." Her second novel, Bottomland, is the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection and a 2016 Massachusetts Book Award "Must Read." She is a native of Iowa and lives in Boston. For more, go to

About the Author

GrubWrites is a space for the writing and reading community to share ideas and seek advice, a place where writers at the very beginning of their careers publish alongside established authors. Book lovers, we bring you reviews, recommendations, and conversations with exciting new authors to keep you up to speed on all things lit. Writers, this is your one stop shop for expert craft talk, opinions on how we learn and teach writing, and essential advice about the publishing industry.

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