Mugshot of author Susan Orlean check out her website at

Scratch – Writers and Money – Bite-Sized Review #2

Running the Widget Factory

This morning I’m looking at the interview of Susan Orlean by Manjula Martin. In their conversation, Orlean talks about her entrepreneurial bent and how this shaped her writing career. Orlean thinks her views grew out of her upbringing in a family that ran a business and discusses how this directed–and helped–her ambitions.

Orlean’s focus in this interview, “Running the Widget Factory,” is the business of writing, and Orlean admits to being reluctant, early on, to be both the one producing her work and then having to promote it, place it, and negotiate her pay.

Her suggestions include having many projects going and to work at some point on a small paper or magazine. My favorite quote related to this is: “… I realize I can write a blog and eventually turn that into a business, but I don’t see that as a good alternative to a job with the rigor of an editor and the ability to understand the audience as a readership that will respond and have expectations.”

Orlean has, by all accounts, been successful and reached the upper tiers of income for an author. I encourage you to check out my affiliate links to her many books. She has written for the New Yorker and had a novel, The Orchid Thief, made into a movie. In this interview she talks about her concept of class as applies to the creative class and how, despite substantial differences in pay ranges, writers are more aike one another than they are with other types of workers. She says this is because writers share goals and sensibilities, a sort of way of being-in-the-world, more so than with others who are simply at the same income level. Orleans believes that income is not the main determinate of class in our society, and she has interesting things to say about this in her intverview with Martin.

Although not covered in the interview, a quick look at Orlean’s website reveals her to be an animal lover and particularly fond of dogs. One of her books delves into the history of Rin Tin Tin, and a more recent work On Animals is a collection of her favorite stories about critters, dating back to her earliest days as a reader. I found her author webside to be warm and engaging and a good way to get a sense of what she’s about. It showcases her impressive body of work.

This interview runs nine pages and covers the above in detail and more subjects that shine a light on Orean’s path to where she is now. Her talk with Martin is a recommended read, and you can find the book in which this and 32 other interviews appear, Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living and read other reviews at my associate link, here.

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