Description: You’d think the question had been asked and answered (in the
affirmative) long ago. Yet on April 7 on the PBS NewsHour, the director of
the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Lan Samantha Chang, said: “I sometimes feel if I
just brought [students] to the room and fed them some chicken soup, they
would get better anyway. The elements that go into creating a great writer
are completely mysterious….” We’ll explore the mysteries, the “if” and
“how,” and whether chicken soup will do.
Event Participants: Eric Olsen (moderator), Jane Smiley, Sherry Kramer, Gordon Mennenga,
and Douglas Unger (panelistis).
Scheduled Day: Friday, March 2
Scheduled Time: 3:00 PM to 4:15 PM
Scheduled Room, Hotel, Floor: Crystal Room, Palmer House Hilton, 4th Floor
Our panelists have been writing since they left Iowa 30 years ago; three
have been teaching writing just as long, one established creative writing
programs while they were at it. They’ll bring unique perspectives born of
long practice to our discussion of the creative process, and how it can best
The panelists are all featured in WW2BW. As I mentioned, originally Jayne
Anne Phillips was going to be on the panel, and so she's listed in the
catalog, but she had to drop out and Jane Smiley agreed to take her place.
Jane Smiley was born in LA and grew up in Saint Louis. She attended Vassar as an undergrad, then Iowa, where she pursued an MFA in fiction writing and a PhD in Old Norse. Her abiding interest in dead languages led to her critically acclaimed novel, Greenlanders. Jane has received numerous literary awards and honors, including an O. Henry Award for her short story “Lily” in 1985, and a Pulitzer and a National Book Critic's Circle Award in 1992 for A Thousand Acres. Her most recent novel, Private Life, was released in 2010.
Sherry teaches playwriting at Bennington College, and in the Iowa
Playwrights Workshop and the Michener Center for Writers, UT Austin. Her
plays include When Something Wonderful Ends, The Wall of Water, David’s
Redhaired Death, and What a Man Weighs. Her grants and awards include NEA
and New York Drama League grants, a McKnight Fellowship, the Jane Chambers
Playwriting Award, and many others.
Gordon's fiction has appeared in the North American Review, Northwest
Magazine, Seems, Folio, and other publications. He has written for NPR’s
Good Evening and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, and one of
monologues he wrote for Keillor provided the basis for the film Everyday,
released in 1999/2000. He currently teaches creative writing and film
studies at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Douglas Unger is the author of four novels, including Leaving the Land, a
finalist for the Pulitzer. His most recent book is Looking for War and
Other Stories. Doug is co-founder of the Creative Writing International
program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he teaches, and has
just completed a new novel, Acting Is Believing. He serves on the executive
board of Words Without Borders.