How Award-Winning Debut Novelist Bryan Washington Writes


New York Times Notable author, Bryan Washington, dropped by to chat about how his short stories garnered so much acclaim, what cuisine tells us about the larger narrative around sharing a meal, and why writers need to ignore the publishing marketplace.

“A reading itself can feel more akin to a set list. You adjust your set list based on the context in which you’re performing. I think of the reading … as being interconnected with the text, but its own singular entity.” — Bryan Washington

The author published the award-winning story collection Lot in 2019 which garnered him – to name only a few – a National Book Award 5 Under 35 honor, the Dylan Thomas Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, numerous best-of-the-year lists, and one of President Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2019.

His debut novel is Memorial, and it too earned a NY Times notable spot, a Good Morning America Book Club Pick, and was named a Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, TIME, O, the Oprah Magazine, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and others.

It’s described as “A funny and profound story about family in all its strange forms, joyful and hard-won vulnerability, becoming who you’re supposed to be, and the limits of love.”

The author described Memorial as a “gay slacker dramedy.” NPR called it, “A masterpiece,” and The Washington Post said of the book “No other novel this year captures so gracefully the full palette of America.”

A24 has already purchased the rights to Memorial, with Washington writing the adaptation for television.

Bryan has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Buzzfeed, Vulture, The Paris Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly, Tin House, One Story, Bon Appetit, GQ, The Awl, and Catapult.

Please help us learn more about you by completing this short 7-question survey If you’re a fan of The Writer Files, please click subscribe to automatically see new interviews. In this file Bryan Washington and I discussed:

  • Trying to pin down the intangible definition of “home”
  • How the author irons out the creases in his prose
  • Why writers are like stand-up comedians
  • His involvement with the adaptation of his novel for the small screen
  • And why you need to just sit down and start writing

Show Notes:


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