If Ruhl hits a snag while writing, she reaches for a book. "Reading authors who have a very particular approach to language, like Gertrude Stein, can unleash something—scrambling the letters around in your head so you start hearing things differently. Pablo Neruda, Elizabeth Bishop, really any poet I take off the shelf is like reprogramming my brain as far as language goes." But Ruhl says the best medicine for mental burnout is a change of pace. "I visited Oxford and wrote at the Bodleian Library. Time is ancient there. America has a very fast clock, and to get serious work done you need to feel a sense of time being elongated."