Not Writing to Write Better


Julia Fierro has a debut novel Cutting Teeth, but for much of the last decade, the writer was so dispirited by the rejection of her first manuscript that she stopped writing. Instead, she launched Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a Brooklyn-based writing institution that has helped introduce a generation of successful novelists. Only after years of teaching did she feel confident enough to take up the craft again—and all that not writing helped make her a better writer:

Part of my success as a writer was not writing. If I hadn’t spent all those years teaching and reading and editing the work of other writers, I am certain I wouldn’t be the writer, and person, I am today. There are infinite ways to be a writer with a capital W, just as there are infinite ways to tell a story. After so many years of writing and not writing, of failing and succeeding, the best advice I can give my students (and myself) is a reminder that there are many definitions of success.

And for more from Fierro on Cutting Teeth, her workshop philosophy, and motherhood, check out her recent Rumpus interview here.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →