Writers@Grinnell: Amy Silverberg


Owen Barbato

Silverberg’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker and The Paris Review, among others.

Ashley Baek, Staff Writer

Amy Silverberg doesn’t believe that success has a “best by” date. “You can work day jobs nine-to-five, like assistants, or baristas or even, I don’t know, insurance agents,” Silverberg said at her Writers@Grinnell roundtable on Nov. 1. “If you’re going to give yourself this time limit of ‘I have to make it in five or 10 years,’ I just think ‘Oh, that sounds so stressful!’” 

Silverberg knows a thing or two about juggling a variety of careers. She holds a PhD in creative writing and literature from the University of Southern California, where she is currently a professor. She is also a screenwriter, author and standup comedian, and her debut novel “First Time, Long Time ” will be published by Grand Central Publishing in the winter of 2024. Silverberg says of her novel, “I sold it on only fifty pages. The most fun month of my life was after I sold it before I started working on it.”

Silverberg said her book is about “a young aspiring writer and her relationship with a famous, aging radio host; exploring women’s ambition, the weight of expectations and the effects difficult men have on the lives around them.” 

Her work in the classroom directly influences her work on the page. “I love writing about people your age,” Silverberg said. “Everybody knows they should be doing something but don’t really know what that is or know exactly what they want to do but have no idea how to get there.” 

Her own trajectory as a young person led her into comedy right after college, where she “met somebody who was a comedian who wanted to learn how to write better, and I wanted to learn how to do stand-up. So we decided we would exchange skills; she would take me to open nights and I told her I would read some of her writing.” 

Silverberg said she finds inspiration in both areas of the field from different people. For writing, Silverberg listed “all the women that write fiction and are funny” as influences, including Amy Bender, Lorrie Moore, Danielle Evans and Roxane Gay, whom she considers a personal friend. 

In the world of stand-up,  Silverberg said, “I think Wanda Sykes is probably my favorite ever. I like Sarah Silverman, and a lot of women, although when I was growing up, I loved Chris Rock.” 

Silverberg noted that being a woman in comedy comes with its own structural challenges. “I’ve heard women get to headline a lot less in random cities unless they’re super famous. If it’s a male comedian or a female comedian, people, especially in the middle of America, will go to see the male comedian and not the female comedian just because they assume they’ll be funnier,” Silverberg said. “But I think things are getting a lot better. There of course is still some misogyny. But definitely, in the last five years, ten years, a lot got better and I think the Me Too movement helped out a lot with Harvey Weinstein going down.” 

Silverberg’s debut novel, “First Time, Long Time,” is scheduled to be released in 2024.