Roxane with one N

Author and social commentator Roxane Gay spoke virtually Thursday, April 29, as part of the CALS Speaker Series. Her parting advice to aspiring writers is one that many can take to heart even outside of the realm of writing: “Be relentless.”  

She began by reading an essay, “The Pleasure of Clapping Back,” followed by an excerpt from her forthcoming book, How to be Heard, where she shares what she calls practical writing advice, some of which she shared with the audience. She spoke in depth about writing and how to be a writer. She believes that the only wrong way to be a writer is to not write, You have to make that life a reality. But she does caution that some people may not realize the decades of work that it takes to be the next Stephen Kingit’s important to put in the work.  Whether you write monthly, weekly or daily, have a schedule and stick to it. She doesn’t believe in stressing to “find your voice,” because your voice already exists, you just need to write it down.  

Roxane is a long-time fan of libraries, telling a story from her youth about how she would pull a wagon to the library to be able to get all the books back home. She encouraged aspiring writers to find other writers, whether it’s through an online writing group, bookstore, or library. She reads around half a book per day due to her insomnia and feels that writers can benefit from reading and staying aware.  

Roxane believes we are living in the golden age of writing. When asked about her literary recommendations, she has recently enjoyed Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz. While her favorite book is Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, saying the language in it grabs her, and she’s struck by how beautifully Edith was able to capture the hypocrisy of the upper class.  

When asked about her latest accomplishments, she lamented being worthy of the big literary prizes that she can’t seem to land but did boast that she has two movies and a TV show in development. If you are unfamiliar with Roxane’s work, she recommends beginning with An Untamed State, Hunger (her 2017 memoir), or Bad Feminist 


Catch the next two CALS Speaker Series events: Tom Llamas will speak live on September 16 at Ron Robinson Theater. Recently named senior national correspondent for NBC News, he earned both Emmy and Edward R. Murrow Awards for his groundbreaking stories including coverage of Hurricane Sandy, the trial of the Boston Marathon Bomber, and his first love, politics.

On October 23, Charles Yu will speak virtually as part of the Six Bridges Book Festival. Yu has written four novels, including Interior Chinatown, which won the 2020 National Book Award for fiction.