Meet the Teaching Artist: Creativity When Life Gets in the Way with Lillian Stone
by Writing Workshops Staff
4 weeks ago
Introducing Lillian Stone, an author and humor writer whose experience is as varied as it is impressive. With bylines in Slate, BBC Worklife, The New Yorker, and The Onion, Lillian has also successfully navigated the publication of her first book, EVERYBODY'S FAVORITE, with a major publisher while maintaining a full-time job. Her ability to balance a professional career, writing deadlines, and personal responsibilities is something many aspiring writers strive for, and it's this practical expertise she brings to her new seminar at Writing Workshops.
Hi, Lillian. Please introduce yourself to our audience.
Hi! I'm Lillian, a Chicago-based author, humor writer, and beagle wrangler. My first book, EVERYBODY'S FAVORITE, published via Dey Street Books in July 2023. I currently write for outlets like The New Yorker, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Onion, GQ, BBC Worklife, and Slate, and I'm working on my second book. I also run a Substack called THE BIG ONE: Creative Living When Everything Blows.
What made you want to teach this specific class? Is it something you are focusing on in your own writing practice? Have you noticed a need to focus on this element of craft? Or is this just your jam and you love it?
I think constraints on creative time can actually be good! I completed my first book while working two different day jobs, freelancing, and living alone during the height of the pandemic. For every full-time, fully-funded artist, there's an incredibly talented artist juggling *life stuff* while working to meet their creative potential. Also, a lot of craft advice points to, like, waking up at 5 a.m. to write, which I don't condone. I am here to prove that successful artists can also be sleepy.
Give us a breakdown of how the course is going to go. What can the students expect? What is your favorite part about this class you've dreamed up?
Students should come prepared with a lofty creative goal—something long-term, like writing a book, knocking out a screenplay, or making a short film. We'll then spend two hours establishing a framework to achieve that goal while working WITH, not against, creative restraints like day jobs. We'll talk about planning, setting boundaries at work and at home—and, yes, sneaking around your boss if necessary. Folks will leave this class with a crystal-clear framework to get their project done and dusted. Also, there *will* be jokes in my slideshow.
What was your first literary crush?
I wore the cover off my copy of Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl, which I probably read when I was about 10. If you're asking about my first AUTHOR crush, it has to be Shel Silverstein, who looked (still looks) incredibly dishy on every back cover.
What are you currently reading?
I'm researching my next book, so I have a huge stack of nonfiction on my nightstand for that project. On my own time, I just started Melissa Lozada-Oliva's book CANDELARIA, and I'm so excited about it—I'm a huge fan of her writing.
How do you choose what you're working on? When do you know it is the next thing you want to write all the way to THE END?
I'll start with a big, vague idea—like, "write something about being a hormonal 12-year-old," or "write something about Bigfoot." From there, I'll sit with that idea for as long as it takes. That means going on long walks with the idea; creating mind maps on paper; pondering the idea in the shower; noodling on it gently until a framework starts to appear. Once the idea comes to a boil—basically, when I know it has legs—it's time to start.
Where do you find inspiration?
I like to be outside as much as I possibly can. Not so much for eavesdropping purposes, although I do LOVE to eavesdrop—I just think it's easier to get out of my head when I'm out getting fresh air.
What is the best piece of writing wisdom you've received that you can pass along to our readers? How did it impact your work? Why has this advice stuck with you?
I'm obsessed with the 2016 "Haunted Elevator" sketch from SNL (fans will know it as the birth of David S. Pumpkins). You've got Kenan Thompson playing an elevator operator in a building that advertises "100 floors of frights," and the elevator passengers clearly aren't super impressed with the frights. At one point he's like, "It's 100 floors of frights—they're not all gonna be winners." I think about that all the time. To drill down into one good idea, you might have to navigate 100 floors of mediocre ideas first. Better get going!
What is your favorite book to recommend on the craft of writing? Why this book?
It's a little woo-woo for some folks, but I really got a lot out of Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic. Writing is 98% craft, but I think it's fun to sit back and enjoy some magic for the other 2%. It gave me permission to see myself as more of a creative and less of a machine cranking out opinions for $200 a pop.
Bonus question: What’s your teaching vibe?
We're gonna have a warm, open, silly vibe in class. You don't *have* to have a silly vibe to enjoy my class, but it's certainly encouraged.
Instructor Lillian Stone is an author, humor writer, freelance reporter and perennial day-job keeper. She juggles gainful employment while working as a regular contributor to outlets including Slate, BBC Worklife, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and The Onion. She sold her first book, EVERYBODY’S FAVORITE, to a Big Five publisher (Dey Street Books, a HarperCollins imprint) in 2021; over the next two years, she wrote it while working full-time and enduring the tribulations of beagle ownership. Today, the book has garnered acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, Glamour, Vulture, the Chicago Reader and, weirdly, Bob Odenkirk.