“I started conceiving of this project in 2017, when I felt like we were going through a really dark political time,” said Charlie Jane Anders. Then came the pandemic, in which she lost her father, who died of COVID in 2020. “Writing can help to keep us safe and comforted during a scary time,” she said, adding, “it is also a vulnerable thing to do. And I think that it’s important to acknowledge that.”
Now’s the right time, then, for a book encouraging its readers to think of writing as an act not only of creativity but survival, not only a way to seek the truth but a way to build community. Anders’s “Never Say You Can’t Survive,” which borrows its title from a 1977 Curtis Mayfield song and album, blends craft advice with elements of criticism and memoir.
Anders, who has won nearly every accolade there is in speculative fiction, says the book isn’t just for writers in that genre. “The reader I had in mind for my book was someone who is not necessarily a professional writer or even an aspiring writer,” she said, “but somebody who needs an outlet and wants to find a way to use the storytelling that we all do in our everyday lives to find comfort or solace or enjoyment.”
Writing isn’t just hard work. “The key part of ‘wordplay’ is play,” Anders said. “There is the pleasure of kind of messing around with words and making phrases that are quirky and distinct and maybe catch somebody’s eye in a way that’s really fun.”
Some of her advice was aimed at herself, Anders said. “I was kind of reassuring myself, as somebody who was really struggling creatively and personally. Just reminding myself of the joy that I can get from writing.”
Charlie Jane Anders is in conversation with P. Djèlí Clark at 7 p.m. Monday at Porter Square Books.
Kate Tuttle, a freelance writer and critic, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.