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From the depths of despair to Pulitzer Prize: One writer’s story

If we didn’t know better, we might read excellent literature and assume that it all flows effortlessly from the writer’s pen.

That “flow state” isn’t the norm for most writers. Some struggling writers become so discouraged they wonder if they’re cut out to be writers. This happened to Pulitzer Prize-winner Junot Diaz when he wrote his first novel. He was stalled. He agonized over his pages. Still, he kept at it for five years. Then he became so discouraged and burned out that he considered another career. But he dug out his manuscript and started in again. He finally published his novel a decade after he first began writing it.

Díaz’s novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008. It was named #1 Fiction Book of the Year” by Time magazine and spent more than 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, establishing itself – with more than a million copies in print – as a modern classic.

Díaz also won other major awards and prizes, including the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, the PEN/Malamud Award, the PEN/O. Henry Prize, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and the Anisfield-Wolf Award.

For more details about his writer’s journey and a dose of inspiration, read his account of what made him become a writer. As Diaz says, it’s not the tale of how he came to write the novel, but how he became a writer — “Writers keep writing anyway.”

His most recent book is a collection of short stories, This Is How You Lose Her.

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