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So You Think You Want To Be a Writer? Four Authors Offer and A&S Professors Offer Advice

Published November 4, 2016 in News

By: Anne E. Bromley | University Communications

Lydia Davis is the Creative Writing Program’s Kapnick Writer-in-Residence. (Photo by Theo Cote)

There’s no shortage of writers around the University of Virginia, but who knows how many people have that notorious “novel in the drawer”?

Those who might be seeking pearls of wisdom about what it takes to become a good writer will have a rare chance of hearing some sage advice from an award-winning author this month.

Lydia Davis, a writer and translator revered in literary circles for her extremely brief and inventive short stories, will be on Grounds through Nov. 20 as the UVA Creative Writing Program’s third Kapnick Foundation Distinguished Writer-in-Residence and will dispense “Thirty Pieces of Advice for Writers” in a talk on Nov. 15 at 5 p.m. in the auditorium of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.

Not to steal her thunder, UVA Today nudged one of those pieces from her in advance, and sought suggestions from a few other well-known UVA writers who’ve polished and published their prose, whether fiction or nonfiction.

One element that makes a story believable is authentic-sounding dialogue. Davis recommends eavesdropping with pen in hand: “Make a habit of copying down overheard conversation,” she suggests.

She’ll give a reading of her work Tuesday and another talk on translation on Nov. 17, both events also at 5 p.m. in the Small Special Collections auditorium. In addition, Davis is leading master classes and meeting with M.F.A. and undergraduate prose writers.

The Man Booker International Prize winner in 2013 and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellowship winner in 2003, Davis teaches at the State University of New York at Albany. Her collection, “Varieties of Disturbance: Stories,” was a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award. Published in 2009, “The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis” won the Paris Review’s Hadada Award. Her 2014 collection, “Can’t and Won’t,” was a national bestseller.

Junot Díaz, author of “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” which won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, will follow Davis as the next Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence from Jan. 23 to Feb. 11.

As promised, a few more tidbits about writing from other successful writers around Grounds.

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