Twitter Chat with 5 Under 35 Honoree Justin Torres
Wednesday, October 17, 2012, 2:00-3:00pm


National Book Foundation @nationalbook: It’s 2:00pm, time for our very first Twitter chat! Today’sguest is Justin Torres, author of We the Animals. Welcome, Justin!

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: Thanks, glad to be here.

National Book Foundation @nationalbook: I’ll ask the first question to get the conversation rolling, and then I’ll open it up for others to ask their questions.

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: Got it. Fire away.

National Book Foundation @nationalbook: You've used words like "fragmented" and "unconventional" to describe your debut novel. Did you have this vision from the start?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @nationalbook Yes. I wanted the book to function like memory-in flashes, fragments. I wanted the arc of the narrative to surprise.

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @nationalbook Also, I was aware of all the 'coming-of-age' novels out there, and wanted to write against the convention.

Taryn Roeder @tarynrebecca: Justin! You know I am a huge fan of YOU and your writing. Do you have advice for young (or not so young) writers?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @tarynrebecca Thanks Taryn! But you also know I dread giving advice...I only know what I try to do in my own work:

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @tarynrebecca Tell messy truths. Make it beautiful. Make it count.

Taryn Roeder @tarynrebecca: @HMHbooks love it, thanks!

Claire Vaye Watkins ‏@clairevaye: @HMHbooks @tarynrebecca Hey Justin! I love "messy truths." Can you say more about what you mean by that? @nationalbook

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @clairevaye Messy truths: labeling this family dysfunctional would be neat lie. The messy truth required an entire novel to tell.

Evan Roskos @EvanJamesRoskos: Justin how has being published affected your writing process (if it has)?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @EvanJamesRoskos When I started writing, I had no audience in mind, didn't expect reviews or a readership. That felt like freedom.

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @EvanJamesRoskos Now, I have a lot of voices in my head, from folks I've met, critiques of my work I've's distracting.

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @EvanJamesRoskos But on the positive side, I have so much more stability, so much more time to write than ever before.

Carla Gray @graycf: Hi Justin- your book is a great fit for book clubs. What one question/topic do you HOPE is most-discussed? What do you hope isn't?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @graycf I hope folks talk about the words, symbols, voice, issues. I'm less interested in discussions about how much is "real".

Harold Augenbraum @haugenbraum: While you were writing, were you wary of the idea that your book might be seen as a Mainland Puerto Rican coming of age story?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @haugenbraum The expectation that 'minority' writers 'represent' can be a privilege and a burden, but when it comes to the work...

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @haugenbraum I tune all of that out, and just try to tell the story I need to tell.

Erika Kimberly @Erica_Kimberly: @HMHbooks I loved your novel & meeting you this summer at @MvilleMFA! I would like to know the last book you fell in love with

Taryn Roeder @tarynrebecca: Oooh, a good question! I wanna know too! RT@Erika_Kimberly: @HMHbooks I would like to know the last book you fell in love with

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @Erika_Kimberly "The Twelve Tribes of Hattie" by Ayana Mathis, coming out soon.

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @Erika_Kimberly Also I recently read "Disgrace" for the first time. (What took me so long?) Didn't fall in love, but still haunts.

Erika Kimberly @Erica_Kimberly: @HMHbooks thank you! there's nothing better/scarier than being haunted.

Jon Horowitz @WitzPickz: How does ur 5u35 selection compare to being one of Salon's Sexiest Men of 2011--and do u feel prepared to repeat in 2012?

Taryn Roeder @tarynrebecca: PEOPLE MAG'S SEXIEST MAN is next, obvs! RT@WitzPickz: How does ur #5u35 selection compare 2 being 1 of Salons Sexiest Men of 2011

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @tarynrebecca Thanks for bringing that up Taryn! I feel like Obama last night, "Could you say that a little louder, please?"

Justin Torres ‏@HMHbooks: @tarynrebecca But it was not People. I was fourth sexiest, after Thom Yorke.

Justin Torres ‏@HMHbooks: @WitzPickz YES. I've been bringing the sexiness all year long. Fingers crossed someone's noticed.

Elizabeth Anderson @elizabanderson: Justin! Besides being confirmed as sexy, what has been the most exciting moment of your writing life?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: You mean besides being named one of NBF's 5 under 35?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @elizabanderson I think I get the biggest kick when folks tell me the finished the book then started in all over again.

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @elizabanderson I wanted the book to be the kind you read and reread; hearing from folks who return to it, study it, just kills me

Kelly Kirch @kkkirch: actually wrote about your book for a lit class. Gender/queer/minority studies-which is most significant to you and/or the story?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @kkkirch Yes, the holy trifecta, broke, brown, and queer. All of it informs the man, the writer, I've become. All are significant.

Jenna Johnson @MsJennaJohnson: @HMHbooks Justin, you've talked about poetry influencing your writing. Who are some new poets you'd recommend?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @MsJennaJohnson New Poets: Valentine Freeman! 

Christine Adler @ChristineAdler: Thank you, Justin! Can't find Valentine Freeman anywhere on Amazon or my library though. Where is she based? @HMHbooks

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @ChristineAdler Portland. She was published alongside two others in a series called New Poets. You'll be hearing more from her.

Jenna Johnson @MsJennaJohnson: @HMHbooks "5 under 35," brings to mind issues of writing and age expectations; what are your thoughts on writing and age?

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @MsJennaJohnson I tend to think of a writer's age in terms of her books, and as much as possible, I like to read them in order.

Justin Torres @HMHbooks: @MsJennaJohnson I'm "one book old" a toddler. The next books will see me grow and change, puberty, middle age, the goal is wisdom.



Justin TorresJustin Torres was raised in upstate New York, where his novel, We the Animals, is set. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Granta, Tin House, and Glimmer Train. He was awarded the Truman Capote Fellowship to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a United States Artist Rolón Fellowship in Literature, a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, and is currently a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard.
Photo credit: Gregory Crowley
> Facebook: