The girl’s guide to literature

Melissa Bank, the acclaimed writer of “The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing” and “The Wonder Spot,” still worries about her writing ability. By e-mail, she explained that she still has to tell herself, “‘You’re the only one that can write this story.'” She uses this mantra to fight the voice in her head that “tells me I don’t know enough – enough about people or the world or writing itself.”

Bank, who lives in New York City and holds an MFA from Cornell University, became successful with the publication of her first novel, “The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing,” which chronicled the life of the character Jane Rosenal from childhood to adulthood in a series of interrelated short stories. Bank will read from her new novel, “The Wonder Spot,” tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the Vanport Room, room 338 of the Smith Memorial Student Union.

The idea that each writer has their own unique voice that can’t be copied is advice that Bank gives to struggling writers. “Of course,” she allows, “it’s hard to shake the hope of writing like a writer you admire, which may be the hope of being better on paper than you are in life.”

“It can take a long time to figure out what belongs to you as a writer,” she explained. “Or, I should say, it took me a long time – or, it takes (italics mine) me a long time. Philip Roth calls it finding your freedom.”

Asked about what inspired her to use interrelated short stories as opposed to the traditional novel form, Bank said “no particular book inspired me to use the inter-connected short story form – though I loved Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories and I was overjoyed when characters reappeared in Salinger’s work.”

As a reader, Bank said she prefers novels that use her chosen form, citing as examples Richard Ford’s “Rock Springs,” Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies,” and Susan Minot’s “Monkeys,” which she called “the most interconnected collection I can think of at the moment.”

Commenting on the struggle of being a touring literary author, Bank joked that she was “mindful that it was a lucky one to have – someone said recently that the only thing worse than a book tour is no book tour. It’s a blow one day – no one shows up at your reading – and great the next – [when] you talk to someone who cares about your work.”

What it takes to be a writer is “exactly the opposite of what it takes to be a writer on tour,” Bank said. “You spend all this time alone, dredging your subconscious, working inside your head, living alone with your pages,” she explained. “Then it’s time to hawk it at Costco.”