According to celebrated author Hannah Tinti ’94, one of the keys to her success has been her instinct to gravitate toward great writers.
“When I was starting out, I wanted to be around other writers,” Tinti says. “You can catch good writing like a cold, so it’s useful to surround yourself with writers who are better than you are.”
Tinti’s first novel, The Good Thief, received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, won The Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and was recognized as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Her most recent novel, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, was published in March, and has already been optioned for a film adaptation by director Matt Reeves.
When Tinti isn’t working on a new book, she’s busy teaching creative writing and serving as the executive editor of the groundbreaking literary publication One Story, which she co-founded in 2002.
In April, Tinti visited campus and held a roundtable discussion with her early mentor, Weller Professor of English and Writer-in-Residence Blanche Boyd. The two offered advice to students on how to approach the creative challenges of being a professional writer, as well as tips for navigating the perils of the publishing industry.
“This woman right here changed my life,” Tinti said, gesturing toward Boyd. “I wouldn’t be a writer if I hadn’t taken Blanche’s class. I started out as a biology major. I came to Conn thinking I wanted to be the next Jacques Cousteau, but Blanche made writing seem like the coolest thing you could possibly do with your life.”
Tinti says she’s grateful she was exposed early in her career to both the editing and literary agency perspectives of the industry instead of only viewing it through the lens of a writer, noting that some of the most useful skills she’s developed over the years have come from sifting through the slush pile of manuscripts and learning what not to do as a writer.
“My day job has always been in publishing, which has allowed me to work with editors and see how they work with other writers to shape and polish their pieces,” she says. “Early on I was able to watch every stage of that process and track the changes in different drafts of a manuscript, and that taught me the technical side of things.”
Tinti believes that as technology has transformed the media and publishing landscapes, it has become easier for a new generation of writers to find an audience. This shift has softened what has traditionally been a competitive literary culture, creating in its place a sense of community and support among younger and aspiring writers.
“I like to compare it to mountaineering,” she says. “You’re all tied together climbing up a mountain. One person takes a step up and yanks everybody else with them.”