Michelle de Kretser

Posted on Posted in Interview, Literary fiction, Michelle de Kretser, Miles Franklin Award, Writer

Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was 14. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle was an editor for Lonely Planet and founding editor of the Australian Women's Book Review before devoting herself to literary fiction.

This interview was recorded shortly before Michelle received the 2018 Miles Franklin Literary Award. Michelle's works include:

  • The Life to Come (2017), awarded the 2018 Miles Franklin Literary Award and the 2018 Stella Prize
  • Springtime (2014)
  • Questions of Travel (2012), awarded the 2013 Miles Franklin Literary Award, the ALS Gold Medal, and the 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction
  • The Lost Dog (2007), longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize for Fiction, awarded the 2008 NSW Premier's Book of the Year Award, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal
  • The Hamilton Case (2003), awarded the Commonwealth Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize
  • The Rose Grower (1999).

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TRANSCRIPT

Astrid Edwards: Michelle de Kretser is one of Australia's finest fiction writers. The Lost Dog was long listed for the the Booker Prize, Questions of Travel received the Miles Franklin Prize, and The Life to Come in 2018 is shortlisted for the Miles Franklin again. It is my great pleasure to share this chat with you.

Michelle, welcome back to The Garret.

Michelle de Kretser: Oh, thank you very much for inviting me back.

Astrid: I had the pleasure of speaking to you in Canberra few weeks ago after you were shortlisted for the Miles Franklin, but in this interview, I would like to talk about your entire career. You're laughing at me, but I do find it fascinating and I adore your works.

Michelle: Thank you.

Astrid: I recently read The Life to Come and reread The Lost Dog and Questions of Travel. As a reader, to me, not knowing you personally, it feels like you constantly return to some themes, and obviously some locations, in your works. Perhaps how the past impacts the present...

Michelle: Yes.

Astrid: Ageing, writing or writers or reading, and of course, locations. So, Sydney, Paris, Columbo stand out for me in your works.

Michelle: Yes.

Astrid: How much of you is in each of your works?

Michelle: Oh, gosh. Well, I would say that I'm present in essence in all my books because they are written by me, so the detail of selection, what I choose to write about, for instance, is obviously influenced by what interests me, my experience, and so on. But, they are truly not autobiographical if you think about autobiographical fiction as being the reproduction of actual life experiences. The characters, for instance, are always made up, because that just gives me pleasure to make up characters, the human characters. The dogs are all drown from life.

Astrid: Yes?

Michelle: Yes. Except the dog in my little book Springtime, who was made up. But all the others are dogs I have either known, who belong to other people, or my dogs.

Astrid: As a reader, I really am interested in the fact that so many of your protagonists or characters are writers of some sort.

Michelle: Right.

Astrid: So, in The Lost Dog, there's Tom, who is writing a novel about another writer, Henry James.

Michelle: No, no. He's writing a thesis. He's an academic.

Astrid: A thesis? Oh, well…

Michelle: He's writing a, not a thesis, he's writing a scholarly book about James, yes.

Astrid: And in The Life to Come, there is Pippa who is a writer, but also you talk about other writers like Patrick White, Shirley Hazzard, and in Questions of Travel, one of the main characters, Laura, is placed within a travel guide company and you do refer to Lonely Planet, who I know you did once work for many, many years ago.

Michelle: Yes. Laura works for a company that is the Lonely Planet rival. [Laughter] Lonely Planet is referred to as the other place.

Astrid: It is. It is. And I guess I'm just interested. They're all writers. So, what brings you back to seeing the world through that kind of character?

Michelle: Well, I suppose it works on the meta level because it's about the representation of reality in one way or another. Also, it's a world I know well, and one that interests me. And Nelly in The Lost Dog is an artist, a visual artist, which is, again, about representation. Yeah. I just guess it's what I know. It's also in The Hamilton Case, which deals specifically with the problem of how you represent exotic places in a way that is non-exoticising, which interests me, obviously, because I'm aware that when I write about Sri Lanka, for instance, or India, the main audience for my fiction is going to be outside those places.

So, on the one hand, I want to convey vividly what it feels like to be in those places, in terms of landscape, in terms of streetscapes, in terms of weather and atmosphere. On the other hand, I don't want to fill them with cliché detail about tropical places.

Astrid: That's exactly what you explore, and you confronted me with, I have to say, in Questions of Travel, where not only is there a backdrop of travel guide publication, but beyond that, questioning what it means to be a tourist and what locals think of the tourists who come and invade their space, and the stereotypes and the misunderstandings, and the wilful ignorance that often comes with being a traveller, even though you're trying to be open to the world.

I found that you pulled me up on some of my memories of being a traveller...

Michelle: Gosh.

Astrid: You made me realise that I've made those mistakes or I've made those blunders.

Michelle: Oh, haven't we all? Haven't we all? I mean, I recognise myself in Laura. {laughter]

Astrid: I fell in love with Laura more and more as the story progressed. I didn't like her to start, and by the end of it, I really did.

Michelle: Oh, good. Good.

Astrid: I really felt for her.

Michelle: Yes, I hope that people's feelings, not just for Laura, really, but for all my characters, I hope that they're complex enough to evoke complex responses in readers.

Astrid: So, talking about your readers. Aside from the complex response, what are you trying to provoke in them, or share with them?

Michelle: Well, having just said what I said about my readers, I must say that when I'm writing, I'm not thinking in terms of how it will be received or in terms of responses that I might be seeking. I'm seeking to please myself with fiction, and I suppose I like books that evoke complex responses in me.

So, I’ll answer it in those terms. I suppose books that make me stop and think about my reactions to everything, to life, to experience, to the way I deal with other people, all kinds of things.

Astrid: Do you consider yourself a writer of place?

Michelle: Oh, among other things. I'm always interested in place. I like encountering it in books of fiction or non-fiction. I like detailed descriptions of place, and when I go to a new place, I'm interested in what makes it different from other places that I know.

Astrid: I, as I mentioned to you in our first interview, I grew up in Sydney, I studied in Paris, and I’ve visited Sri Lanka, albeit as a tourist. Your descriptions of these places provoke quite a violent reaction in me. I feel like I am there again.

Michelle: Oh, wonderful!

Astrid: And my question is, how do you do that?

Michelle: [Laughter] I don't know, but I'm very glad that you felt that. I guess, when I said I was interested in what makes them different from other places, I'm interested in particularity. I'm interested in specifics, and I think more and more that this matters to me as a writer and as a reader, that I'm interested in particularity, by which I mean the precise rendering of details, accurate rendering of detail, and I think that is what gives a novel its density. It's feeling that it's three dimensional.

So, as you said, so the feeling that you are there. It is a matter of, in my own mind, trying to find and convey something about what you might see or what you might smell, or what you might feel when you're in a particular place. I don't think, at the same time, that there was any kind of formula that can be applied.

Astrid: Do you draw it all from memory or do you revisit places if you happen to be in that location?

Michelle: Oh, a bit of both. I do a lot from memory, because memory is a wonderful editor, and what you remember tends to be the vivid details, the striking details, and you can't put everything in, so memory does a certain amount of that work of selection for you.

Having said that, I will go back to places and check details. There's a little scene in The Life to Come, which is set in Patanga, where I had spent, I don't know, maybe an hour, about four or five years ago. I did go back there, and it was just as well I did, because the scene in The Life to Come is set in the 1980s, and I had the pub, which is there now, I had, in my first draft, I had that in there. And I learnt that it wasn't there in the 1980s, it was just a general store, which has since disappeared. So, there are some little details like that, so it's good to go back and check, but because I was writing about the past in particular. So, I will go back sometimes. If I feel a bit unsure about things, I will go back. But as I said, it is also quite a good trick to just see what you can remember.

Astrid: That's a lovely way of looking at it in terms of memory editing.

Michelle: Yes.

Astrid: You've published five full length novels over 18 years now? 17 years?

Michelle: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Gosh.

Astrid: What have you learned along the way about telling stories?

Michelle: I've leaned that every book is different, and nothing to do with technique carries over, at least not in my experience. But I think what I have learned is to hold my nerve a bit better, because really, writing a novel, it's like stepping out on a tightrope that isn't there.

Astrid: Even still?

Michelle: Oh, gosh, yes. Oh, gosh, yes. Yes. And you have to pretend that it's there. I mean, it's a massive confidence trick that you are playing on yourself, really, and you have to hold your nerve.

The other thing I guess I would have learned is that when I think it's just not working and I should just activate the delete button on all the files and all the backups, I think I know now to leave it for a day, even, and to remember, to remind myself that when I think it's not working, usually, I mean 99 per cent of the time, what it is is that something, or things, are not working. So, it's a matter, often, of just isolating what isn't working rather than immediately ramping up and saying, ‘It's not working’, meaning the whole thing, trying to isolate the particular details that aren't working. That might be a character, it might be a scene, it might be a paragraph, it might be a couple of sentences, it might be the ending of something, it might be the beginning of something else. So, that's something I've learned really, to try. It's related to the previous thing, it's a way of keeping your confidence just to look at small things, and if you can fix the small things, you will almost certainly fix the large ones.

And related to that, I think, is another thing that I think I felt instinctively, at the start, and now I believe in it like a mantra, really, that I repeat to myself, is that literature lives in sentences, and that how you build a book is in the sentences. Ideas matter, of course, I mean, you don't just want a book of pretty sentences, that would be a vacuous thing, but it is how you express the ideas that makes all the difference. So, that is what I try to concentrate on, finding the best way to express what I'm thinking.

Astrid: I'm going to quote you. ‘Literature is in the sentences’. That's a beautiful way of talking about it, Michelle. You've been with Allen and Unwin for quite a while, is that correct?

Michelle: Yes.

Astrid: Have they ever not published one of your manuscripts?

Michelle: No. I was with Random House for my first two novels, then my publisher there, Jane Palfreyman, moved to Allen & Unwin, so I went with Jane.

No, I would hope that I would kill a novel myself, rather than send it out if it wasn't ready to...

Astrid: And have you ever done that? Have you killed a novel?

Michelle: I have killed part of novels. Actually, this is something I've learned, I'd forgotten when you asked before. After my first book, after I wrote it, and then while it was still… it takes about a year, so while it was still in production, before it was published, I thought, ‘Well, now I have to go on and start writing the second one’. And I made a start, and it was just after about 15,000 words, it was just dead in the water. This was not something I could go back and fix.

I think one reason for that, probably the main reason, was I didn't know how it was going to end, and now I have learned I need an ending before I can begin. So, I need an ending, meaning not a worked out plot or something like that, but probably just an image, a picture in my mind of something happening. I need to have a vague idea of what it's going to be about. And then, if I know where it's going to end – I suppose this is related to the ‘tightropey’ feel that the non-existent tightrope has got an ending – you can get there, it's a way of feeling that you know the destination, even though you have no idea how the journey is going to work out.

Astrid: I like that. Given that you do have five books in print, and you have been shortlisted and won many awards, what is it like at this stage of your career to be edited? Do you love the edit?

Michelle: Yeah, I mean, good editing is just a marvellous thing. It's a wonderful gift to a writer. In exactly the same way, bad editing is terrible, because you feel someone just hasn't got it.

Astrid: So, what does good editing look like or feel like?

Michelle: Good editing, for me, pays close attention to the sentences, to the words, to the language, to the texture. I mean, there are different levels to good editing. Of course, I want someone, if I have, to say you know, ‘This entire paragraph is redundant’, or ‘This character, we don't quite know what's going on in this scene with this character’, or, ‘Here is something contradictory. You said the character is like this on page 12, and then on page 94 you say the opposite’. There's big picture things you need to hear about as well, but I think that really good editing happens at the close detailed stage of attention, what's known as the line edit or the copy edit really.

I had a very nice experience of that. Oh, gosh, it must have been at least a couple years ago now, with Text Publishing actually, where I wrote, I don't know, maybe 2,500, 3,000 word introduction to a Randolf Stow story for their Text Classics re-issues, it was stories the The Suburbs of Hell. The editor there, I felt she really engaged fully with it. I didn't agree with everything she suggested – one never does, it would be alarming if you did, I think – but good editor you would expect 75 to 80 per cent strike rate. Much below, it's someone who might be great but isn't great for you. I felt that she was fully present on the page. And I can't explain it more clearly than that.

Astrid: But it paints a nice picture.

Michelle: Her mind was as engaged with my work as my mind had been writing it. So, that was really lovely. I'll say her name, because she should be recognised, it was Alaina Gougoulis.

Astrid: Lovely. I'll make sure she hears the episode. [Laughter]

So, moving on from editing, is there anything that you don't like about your own work or is there…

Michelle: Oh, everything. I mean, I never re-read it. I just can't go back and look at it again. Because I can't do anything about it. If I see something I dislike, and I think, ‘Oh, god, that's a clunky sentence. How did that get through?’ Well, I can't do anything. I know I envy artists who can go up to one of their paintings that's somewhere and pull out a paintbrush and touch up. [Laughter]

Astrid: You can't do that with a printed novel. [Laughter]

Michelle: You can't do that with a printed novel, so I don't reread.

Astrid: I have a hypothetical question for you. I understand that it might be a bit strange. You published The Lost Dog in 2007 or 2008 I believe. It was very well received. Ten years later, if you were to set out as a writer to tell the same story, would it be very different, because you are different now, or would you end up writing the same kind of thing?

Michelle: Oh, I suppose some aspects would be different. It's very hard to conceive of going back and redoing something you've done. It feels finished, done with, so much in the past. I think that is the thing about, for me, with writing, is that until the moment it actually goes off to the printer, it's still a living thing, it's still a live thing because I can make changes to it. When it comes back as a book, and I see my first advanced copy, it's a lovely thing to see that book. At the same time, it's a rather melancholy moment for me, because I think now it no longer belongs to me. It is now an object among millions of other objects in the world, and the work of writing is definitively over, which means the work of creation is over. And what begins at that moment is the work of reading, which has no end. But that is not my work, at least not where my books are concerned.

So, it's very hard for me to think about revisiting even a novel I wrote or published last year. I just can't conceive of it. I know there are writers that go back and do new editions. Well, Henry James, famously, of course, but I just feel that book with all its flaws, with whatever is good about it, is done now and it would be hard for me, apart from, as I said, fixing up a sentence or something, but to enter back into that world… yeah.

Astrid: It's over for you.

Michelle: It's over.

Astrid: So, let's talk about the creative part of it.

Michelle: Sure.

Astrid: What is your writing process? How do you approach…?

Michelle: Oh, it's very boring, I'm afraid.

Astrid: I don't think writers find other writer’s process is boring!

Michelle: With first draft, I do 500 words a day, and that's what I aim for, which I feel is manageable for me. I'm a slow writer, so that is a manageable goal, and I set a word count rather than a time limit, because if I said I have to sit in front of the computer for three hours, I can do that and write 30 words. So, setting myself a word count is the way, for me. I do that five days a week, simply because of two things. I'm lucky enough that I don't have other commitments, I can devote that time to it. Secondly, for me, writing a novel, and this is the pleasure of it, is creating a world, and I need to be immersed in that world. If I lose the thread for too long, if I take too long a break from it, I lose some of the density of imagination, because when I write a novel, I know far more than ends up in the book about the characters, about the worlds they live in. I imagine…

Astrid: I imagine they are real for you, but do you talk to them or do they talk to you? How do they exist in your imagination?

Michelle: No, no, I don't talk to them, and they only say what I want them to say. [Laughter] But I would know a character's middle name, for instance, whether they have siblings or not, I can visualise very clearly the houses they live in or their apartments, or whatever their physical surroundings.

They live in my imagination. It's a wonderful, human gift, the imagination.

Astrid: I know some writers actually write all of that down, hair colour, eye colour, like siblings' names et cetera. Do you ever create those kinds of character settings?

Michelle: No, I don't. What I do write down is a timeline.

Astrid: Of their life?

Michelle: Of their life. So, born in whatever, went to school, mother died this year. Important events in their lives. So that I can keep track of things, so that I don't have someone go to university at the age of 12 or something. [Laughter] So that's what I write down, really.

Astrid: Do you believe in writer's block?

Michelle: Oh, yeah. Because I see it in other people, and I experience it to a certain extent. But for me, it would be not something that would happen for months if I were writing a novel or even for weeks, but it might be for a day or something like that. At that point, I think best to walk away.

Although I still do try and try and try to do those 500 words, even if they are words that I feel are not really good and that I might delete 400 of them the next morning. But I think I would try and take a break from it, go for a walk, do something different, cook. I think writers are often very interested in food and cooking in the house, and it's a way of getting away from the desk. [Laughter]

Astrid: Yeah, and waking up a bit. Who is your first reader, and at what stage do you share your draft writing?

Michelle: My first reader is my partner, the poet, critic and translator Chris Andrews. He reads the whole of the first. Oh, not first draft, second draft. Sorry.

Astrid: Second draft?

Michelle: Yes, whole of the second draft. And he will read as many draft as I ask him to read. He's a wonderful, a generous reader. Sometimes during the course of writing the book, I'll be feeling particularly desperate, and I will say to him, ‘Would you just mind reading what I wrote today?’, and seeing if it's clear, if it makes sense, and he will do that.

Then, he says what every great reader should say at that stage when it is still very far from finished, ‘It's fine. Keep going’. And that's what you need, really, that reassurance to keep going.

Astrid: You do, don't you?

Michelle: You do.

Astrid: So, at what stage do you then get in contact with your publisher and start to share it?

Michelle: I have an agent, so I would do two drafts at least. Well, two drafts with Chris, then I would do another draft myself, then I would send it to my agent. And then, I would have her feedback. Of course, the thing is, the moment I hit that send button and send it to my agent, I have wonderful ideas about things that need desperately to be changed.

So, I just make a note of all those things. But see, what I do with every draft, I take a break and ideas occur to me, problems that need to be fixed or new material that needs to go in, and I just, at that stage, just make notes in a notebook or writing pad or whatever, because I think it is important to keep away from it for a little while, because the reason why the ideas are coming is because you're detached from it.

Astrid: So, when you say take a break, do you take a break from writing anything, or do you take a break from that project?

Michelle: From that project, so might well be writing a review, or writing something else, but from that project, yeah.

Astrid: I would like to go back to your experience as a book reviewer. If I understand correctly, you were the founding editor of the Australian Women's Book Review?

Michelle: Yes, co-founding editor with a friend.

Astrid: So, tell me about the role that book reviews play for a writer, maybe in terms of the commercial aspect. So, does that help drive book sales or getting the next contract?

Michelle: I don't know that it would drive sales today. I hear not particularly, partly because review coverage has shrunk so much. The Australian Women's Book Review was a project from the late 1980s, which at that time, we didn't have The VIDA Count, but my friend Sara White and I were just noticing as readers, reading review pages, which were quite extensive at that time, that there was a markedly lower percentage of women's books that were being covered across the board. So, we set up the magazine to try and redress, in our tiny way, those statistics. It's very depressing to see that they are still unchanged more or less.

Astrid: They have not reached parity, no.

Michelle: So that was our… It was to do with social justice really.

Today, I don't know. I mean, I don't read my own reviews. I suspect that for writers, we are less influenced in our reading by reviews than by what our friends recommend, and maybe that's true for everyone. There's the water cooler effect.

Astrid: There is, isn't there?

Michelle: But as I said, I will tend to go where my friends recommend. I mean, the question I always ask other writes I meet is, ‘Have you read anything wonderful lately?’ And through that, I have found wonderful books, and there's nothing more exhilarating, there's nothing better for one's own writing than reading a book that excites you, that exhilarates you, that makes you want to write back to it, makes you want to enter into a conversation with it.

Astrid: And that brings us to your current work in progress, I believe, your long form essay for Black Ink on Shirley Hazzard, the great Australian writer.

Michelle: Yes.

Astrid: You're smiling so much right now, Michelle. [Laughter] We did speak about this in our previous interview, but tell me why it matters for writers to reflect on other writers or to engage in their work.

Michelle: Oh, well, in general, I would say writers come from readers. Writers don't have to have a formal education, or if they have formal education, it doesn't necessarily have to have a literature component in it, but I don't know any writer I respect who isn't an avid reader.

You have to engage with the form that you want to work in, and it's a form or replenishment, a form of nourishment, I think, even if it is just looking at something and saying, ‘But I don't want to go there. I don't want to do that’. That's important, too, knowing where or how you don't want to write.

I think it's important to read poetry for writers of fiction, at least for writers of literary fiction.

Astrid: Can you explain that?

Michelle: I think, because good poetry pays precise attention to language, to words, and that's a wonderful thing. It is also often language that is paying attention to rhythm, to the musicality or a work, of a line of words. So, that is something that matters to me.

I think it's important for literary writers to take what we can from commercial books. I think often crime fiction, which I read as a form of mental relief…

Astrid: Relief?

Michelle: Yes. Is often much better on dialogue and brisk scene setting than literary fiction, which can be a bit self indulgent in those areas, so I think that when you're a writer, you read slightly differently than people who aren't writing. You look at how something has been constructed and you learn. This is how you learn. It is like, for an artist, going into a gallery and looking at the works of art there. It widens your horizons, teaches you.

Astrid: Are you aware of The Golden Booker?

Michelle: No, I haven't heard of it.

Astrid: The Lost Dog was long listed for the Booker Prize in 2008. This year is the 50 year anniversary of the prize itself, and they have invented something called The Golden Booker.

Michelle: Right. [Laughter]

Astrid: So, the Golden Booker was an international online competition, and they have shortlisted five of the previous winners of the Booker Prize to then go into a poll and judges and they come up with what will be called The Golden Booker.

And because you've been shortlisted, and because you are a phenomenal reader, I was going to ask who you thought would win.

Michelle: Oh, I'm not even aware of it.

Astrid: There's Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, In a Free State by V. S. Naipaul, The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders.

Michelle: Okay, well, I haven't read Lincoln in the Bardo.

Astrid: It's very recent.

Michelle: I have read Moon Tiger, but it's so long ago, I can barely remember it. So, there was Ondaatje and Naipaul.

Astrid: And Hilary Mantell.

Michelle: I'm not… I would say Ondaatje or Naipaul actually.

Astrid: Fantastic. The English Patient is one of my favourite books, so I'm going with Ondaatje. But I just thought it was a fascinating concept, trying to rank literary fiction over the decades.

Michelle: Yeah, it's sort of crazy. How did they get that? Was that on public voting or something?

Astrid: As far as I understand, yes.

Michelle: I mean, it's always so flawed. And then in some way, all literary prizes are ridiculous, aren't they?

Astrid: Yes. In our previous interview, I asked you about what it meant to win a prize or be shortlisted, and your response gave me a lot of things to ponder. You said it didn't have any impact on your writing, apart from the beautiful fact that it can buy you time to write, which is obviously a great gift.

Michelle: Yes. Yeah. Oh, I just think it's really important to remember, when you win a prize that yours is not the best book. It was the book that got lucky on that occasion. This is actually a very good thing to recognise and to internalise, because it means that when you don't win, it doesn't mean that your book was a bad book. You just didn't get lucky on that occasion. There are always great books that don't get shortlisted or longlisted or any listed.

I think you asked me last time about was there a book that I thought should have gotten more attention, an Australian book, and I remembered two minutes after I walked out of the room, that a book I thought should have got more attention was Josephine Rose’s A Loving Faithful Animal, which is a really, really good strong first novel. She has a couple books of short stories, and I think a poetry collection, and I think it did get longlisted for either the Stella or the Miles, but not much else, or not that I'm aware of anyway. It just didn't get as much acclaim as it should have, so there's always those books that fall through the cracks.

Astrid: Yes.

Michelle:

I remember, oh gosh, it must be a good 10 years ago, a Sydney writer named Vicky Hastritch wrote a book about the building of the Sydney Howell Bridge called The Great Arch, which is a terrific novel, terrific novel, and, again, I think the second novel, or first or second novel, and again, just completely fell through the cracks, either didn't get reviewed or was reviewed by someone who just completely missed the point.

It was such a good book, and yeah, I mean, these things happen, and I think it is important not to be self-important when you do win, to remember that there was a great deal of luck in that.

I don't mean that the judges aren't working hard. I've judged literary prizes myself, which is another good thing to do if you're a writer, because you see how things go in a judging room, and that someone's favourite, your favourite book, might not actually get up there because it's a democratic process, and it comes down to numbers in the end.

Astrid: It always does. Michelle, I would imagine that many amongst our audience on The Garret look up to your literary career. Do you have any words of advice or insight that you can give them? Final words of advice?

Michelle: Oh, gosh. read. Read, read, read. Pay attention to the sentences.

Tell you something I have learned – see it's all coming back to me now – is to look hard at beginnings and endings. First sentences, last sentences, and this is not just the first sentence of the book and the last sentence of the book, but within each paragraph. You often don't need it.

Astrid: Oh. I’m going to go back and look at my writing…

Michelle: Take it out, because you're often just building bridges for yourself in your own mind. You often don't need it.

Astrid: That is a wonderful tip. Thank you, Michelle.

Michelle: It's okay.

Astrid: And thank you, Michelle, for coming back to The Garret.

Michelle: You are welcome. Oh, thank you very much. Thank you for having me.