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Tao Lin talks tweets, Twitter and his upcoming book

Tao Lin reads 'Selected Tweets'

"Craving twizzlers, ravioli, soup" - @tao_lin, September 2012

Are the 240 character tweets you craft prolific enough to be published in a book? New York based author Tao Lin (@tao_lin, 26.1K followers) thought so.

Known for using social media in his fiction, like his acclaimed Summer 2013 novel 'Taipei', in between book talks, teaching creative writing and working on future books, Lin makes himself known on Twitter, Instagram and Youtube, adapting what may not be considered literature into writing worth reading.

Along with fellow writer Mira Gonzalez (@miragonz, 15.3K followers), Tao Lin compiled a book of his personal tweets 'Selected Tweets' to be released on June 15th. He'd been thinking about the project since "a long time ago" -- 2010-- when @tao_lin started tweeting frequently.

We chatted with Tao, in real life, not over the Internet, to get some secrets to his tweeting success.

How did you select tweets for 'Selected Tweets'?

I printed them. Wait,  no I didn't. On Twitter you can request your archive and I requested my archive for all my accounts that I still had and I read through all of them. I selected ones that I thought could go in the book. I moved them to a Word file and read and deleted some over a few months.


Which Tweets did you decide to delete? Can you ever really delete a Tweet?

There was a lot of repetition and tweets about what I was feeling. I chose my most memorable ones. Some tweets would mention something what would return later to make a narrative or a theme. I choose tweets to accentuate that.


What inspires you to Tweet?

A lot of things. Sometimes immature writing. Sometimes a link to a review of one of my books, so financial reasons inspire that. Sometimes I'm inspired by the thought of something and there's no one around it tell it to so I just Tweet it. When I think something and note it to myself but don't want it to disappear in my notes I Tweet.


How do you craft a Tweet?

I usually edit a Tweet before posting. I write it out and read it over a few times and determine if I will use it. I usually try to edit it to be as short as it can be to mean the same thing. Many times I'm forced to change the word count. That's how I edit my other writing, by cutting it down.

What makes a successful Tweet?

To me any Tweet is or can be successful And successful depends on who is judging it and in what moment.

How do you feel about hashtags?

I thought you were going to say hash.. I haven't used them much. I only use them when I'm live tweeting a movie, and I'll use hashtag the movie name and live-Tweet. There's a lot you can do with hashtags; it's a completely new thing in language. Putting a hashtag is sort of like giving the sentence another dimension. A hashtag is kind of like coloring it. Before the language was just all the same color and hashtag colors it. I just haven't been using them.


How should readers approach a printed collection of Tweets?

There are lot of different ways a person could read the book. One way is to read it like a short story. My side has 8 stories from six accounts, all of them have beginnings, ends and titles. You could also read the book like poetry. Since everything is arranged into lines and things reoccur. The amount of fragmentation is sort of consistent throughout. You could also read the book like a biography of certain years of my life. I would say that this is like a fragmentary autobiographic novel. It has a date and goes chronologically and is divided into months and sections.


What do you want readers of 'Selected Tweets' to come away with?

I just want them to read it and come away with whatever they're going to come away with without having an idea in their head of what I want them to come away with.

Is Twitter changing contemporary literature?

Tweets appear elsewhere in my writing. Some of my Tweets I've quoted exactly or not so exactly in my novel 'Taipei.' The main character in that sometimes uses Twitter.


How much of your real life is spent on Twitter?

It comes in waves. Sometimes I'll be more interested and sometimes I'll Tweet something I really don't like. I'll read tweets that make me feel depressed and then I'll come back. It's the same as everything. With friends I won't always be in consistent contact with them but I'll come back.


Other than your own, do you have a favorite Twitter account?

Everyone I follow. I don't follow that many people.


'Selected Tweets' by Tao Lin and Mira Gonzalez will debut at a launch party at PowerHouse Arena on Thursday, June 11th. Hamilton Morris will moderate a discussion with the authors at McNally Jackson on Sunday, June 14th. 



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