How I Write – Anthony Varallo


When/how/where do you write?

Ok, I admit it: I do most of my writing in this big, puffy rocking chair I’ve had since grad school. But it’s a really good chair. For one thing, it’s comfy; for another, I’ve come to realize that it’s a little bit harder to stand up from a low rocking chair than a desk, especially when I’ve got my laptop to deal with, which means I’m more likely to stay put and write.

Do you eat while you write? If so, what?

I usually write in the mornings, after my kids have gone to school, and after I’ve had my breakfast, but not before I’ve finished drinking my coffee. Coffee is, for better and sometimes worse, the center of my writing universe. I have to be drinking coffee while I write. And I always have to drink my coffee from this blue and white “Dad” mug my kids gave me a few years ago—the mug is a big part of my writing ritual. If the mug is in the wash, I will wash it by hand, dry it, and use it instead of just getting a mug from the cabinet. I rest the mug on my bookshelf while I write, and I sort of like the idea of reaching over to drink from my bookshelves. Like I’m drinking from literature itself? Well, no, but maybe something like that. Sometimes I will wander away from my chair and refill my coffee mug or make toast. Toast is good writer food. I usually put peanut butter on it or maybe strawberry jam.

Do you play music while you write? If so, what?

I listen to classical music when I write, since I can’t concentrate on song lyrics when I’m pushing words around on the page, so Bach and Beethoven and Haydn come in handy. Lately I’ve been going heavy on Bach, especially his English Suites.

What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading Book Five of Karl Ove Knausgaard’s epic novel/memoir My Struggle. I’m about a hundred pages from the end, and I’ll be sad to finish it and have to wait another year for Book Six to appear in translation.


Anthony Varallo is the author of three short story collections: This Day in History, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award; Out Loud, winner of the Drue Heinz Literature Prize; and Think of Me and I’ll Know (TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press).