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  • NYS Writers Institute

Q&A with Nick Flynn: "Absorb as much as possible"

We checked in with Nick Flynn for advice on how to cope and be productive during these unsettled times.

Nick is author of the bestselling memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, about his troubled and homeless father. The memoir recounts the years Flynn, in his twenties, spent working in a Boston homeless shelter, where he would periodically cross paths with his father.

Nick's new memoir is This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire (Aug. 2020), an exploration of how his traumatic childhood and mother's suicide shaped his experiences as the parent of a young daughter. Read more on his publisher's website:

From the publisher:

"When Nick Flynn was seven years old, his mother set fire to their house. The event loomed large in his imagination for years, but it’s only after having a child of his own that he understands why. He returns with his young daughter to the landscape of his youth, reflecting on how his feral childhood has him still in its reins, and forms his memories into lyrical bedtime stories populated by the both sinister and wounded Mister Mann."

“Nick Flynn writes like a wicked angel―heartbreaking and challenging yes, but with an undercurrent of comfort that comes from the fact that you can trust this voice. We need this book, now more than ever.”

-- Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina

“This latest memoir in Nick Flynn’s remarkable body of work is at once tender and searing―suffused with longing, ruthless self-inquiry, intellectual rigor, and most of all, desire: desire to remember, to forget, to forge a family, to blow it all to smithereens. I read it on the edge of my seat.”

-- Dani Shapiro, author of Inheritance

Nick came to the 2nd Albany Book Festival at UAlbany in September 2019 to talk about the experience of the having his memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, adapted as a Hollywood film -- Being Flynn (2014) -- starring Robert De Niro, Julianne Moore and Paul Dano. The Book Festival event was a conversation with author John Searles, presented by our friends at Yaddo, the historic artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs.

John Searles and Nick Flynn at the Albany Book Festival, 2019
John Searles and Nick Flynn at the Albany Book Festival, 2019

Flynn first visited us at the University at Albany in 2004 -- event page -- at the time of the memoir's original release.

Q: What advice do you have for University students and young people during these uncertain times of plague and protest?

A: If possible, absorb as much as possible, participate as much as possible…we are in the middle of a historical transition, and it will likely color whatever you create from here on.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers who are seeking motivation to write during quarantine?

A: I have written very little during the past several months, but I have taken notes, I have felt very awake. I believe that when it is time to write, you will know it.

Q: What is the strangest thing you've done during quarantine? Or what is your strangest experience?

A: Well, I just got out of the hospital, which is the one place you really do not want to be in a plague. I’d been sick (fever, headaches) for two weeks, went to emergency room, found out it wasn’t Covid-19 (whew), but it was babesiosis (a tick borne parasite, symptoms like malaria)—very dangerous, so I was admitted. The first wave of Covid had passed, and all the docs and nurses and aides had been through a lot, yet were to a person amazing.

Q: Have you acquired any new insights during the past few months?

A: I’ve needed to turn inward, to be with my family, and it turns out we really like each other. I still miss my friends greatly, just the joy of randomly running into someone on the streets of Brooklyn, and I look forward to those days returning.

Q: What books do you recommend we read?

A: Talking to My Daughter About the Economy or, How Capitalism Works—and How It Fails, by Yanis Varoufakis; Why I Don’t Write, Susan Minot; all of James Baldwin; What is the Grass, Mark Doty.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us?

A: So much.

Nick is also the author of I Will Destroy You: Poems (2019) and Stay: threads, conversations, collaborations, published in March 2020 by small press ZE Books.

"Over the course of a year, [Flynn] will have released three books... Stay feels like the glue that brings them all together."―Licia Morelli, Vanity Fair

Learn more about him at

And as always, please support your local bookstore. Visit The Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza in person or online to purchase This Is the Night Our House Will Catch Fire: A Memoir -- --and Stay: threads, conversations, collaborations --


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