Segments in this Video

Cultural Background (08:05)


Rob Spillman describes growing up in Berlin, where his parents were musicians. Although the environment was chaotic and dangerous, it was culturally rich. Spillman compares that time of opposition to today, arguing that art comes out of change and urgency.

Written Expression in Times of Chaos (07:13)

Spillman and John Immesoete discuss how writing has changed since the last election; Spillman reads more urgent and angry submissions, but similarly to 9/11, it takes time for good work to come out of upheaval. He notices unification and reaching out, despite attacks on free expression. He argues that even with digital options, people still value a physical copy of a book and strong storytelling.

Career Background and Teaching Writing (07:52)

Spillman studied psychology and learned about books while working at a bookstore; he took a leap and started his company with little experience. As a teacher, he has found that while some things can be taught, a writer needs to have talent and perseverance. He explains that he only accepts a fraction of the submissions he receives, but often he spends time mentoring young writers.

Evaluating Writing (05:53)

Spillman and Immesoete discuss what makes a piece of writing unique. Spillman looks for a sense of authority and intentionality in the first 300 words. He agrees that reading and telling stories is more important than ever. Structure and limitations often lead to great work.

Living in East Berlin (04:05)

Spillman moved back to Germany at 25 and lived in East Berlin just before reunification. He describes the environment of anarchists, street riots, and constant change. As an artist it was an inspiring city to live in.

Learning From Failure (04:51)

When Spillman moved back to New York he worked at a postcard factory then started in publicity at Random House. He learned about the publishing business and soon got a job at Spy magazine. Spillman discusses dealing with rejection and the challenge of judging creative work.

Success and Purpose (03:06)

Spillman explains that he is still curious and open to learning. He is becoming aware of his success and power in the industry, so he tries to use it in positive ways, such as by encouraging diversity.

Credits: A Conversation With Rob Spillman: Conversations with Giants (00:27)

Credits: A Conversation With Rob Spillman: Conversations with Giants

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A Conversation With Rob Spillman: Conversations with Giants

Part of the Series : Conversations with Giants
3-Year Streaming Price: $49.95



Can great writing be taught? John Immesoete and Tin House literary magazine editor and co-founder, Rob Spillman, talk about the mechanics of writing, the importance of cultural inspiration, and how rejection is inevitable, but important.

Length: 42 minutes

Item#: FMK150890

Copyright date: ©2017

Closed Captioned

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