Q&A: Famous short story writer Ann Beattie returns to UVA


Ann Beattie, award-winning short story writer and former Edgar Allan Poe professor of literature and creative writing at the University of Virginia, returns to Grounds this fall as the sixth Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence.

Beattie taught at UVA for many years before leaving in 2012 to write full time.

Her work soared to literary fame in the 1970s, and she continued to write short fiction films and novels strangely in tune with the cultural moment, said English teacher Lisa Russ Spaar, who directs the creative writing program.

“In an ironic, graceful, witty, and ruthlessly beautiful style, she brings to the craft of fiction – her writing and reading – a generous, honest, insightful and unmistakable sensibility,” said Spaar. “Although she is an icon of literary fiction, her fearless humility and wicked sense of humor make her perhaps unique among celebrities, and we could not be more delighted that she is among us, enriching her university and the wider community with its work and vision. “

Beattie’s stories have been included in four “O. Henry Prize Stories”, in “The Best American Short Stories of the Century” by John Updike and in “The Best American Short Stories 2014” by Jennifer Egan. A fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Beattie received the PEN / Malamud Award for her short story achievement in 2000.

She will be part of three events at the AVU:

  • Reading: October 17, 5 p.m., Auditorium Old Cabell Hall
  • Conference: Oct. 24, 5 p.m., minor room room 125
  • Conference: Nov. 14, 5 p.m., Minor Hall 125

All three events are free and open to the public. As part of the Creative Writing Program, Beattie will also be holding office hours to meet with MFA students and lead a master class.

“The Creative Writing Program welcomes Ann to our creative writing community, and we are grateful to the Kapnick family for making her residency possible this fall,” said Spaar.

The Kapnick Foundation Distinguished Writers’ Residency program aims to bring writers of international stature to Grounds to teach and engage with AVU students and the literary community. The program, which began in 2014 with the appointment of novelist James Salter, was inspired by the legendary residences of William Faulkner at the University in 1957 and 1958. Since the residency of Salter, Caryl Phillips, Lydia Davis, Junot Díaz and Mark Doty have all been named Kapnick Writers.

UVA Today asked Beattie a few questions about her time on Grounds.

Q. What will you do in the master class you will be teaching?

A. I asked the MFA students if they would be willing to read a story that I discovered for the first time, myself, this summer – one by Mavis Gallant. I can’t seem to get it out of my head, which seems like a good thing. They seemed quite willing, and of course, this can be a starting point for discussing other writing strategies.

Initially one of my two Kapnick interviews mentioned this story (“Dede”), but I rethought the interview and (alas) those particular remarks are gone, so it will be nice to discuss some of my ideas with the group when we meet.

Q. What will be the subjects of your two talks?

A. I don’t like titles very much. Often times, other people will title my work for me. I finished both talks, but only one title for the first one: “My Bingo Life”.

As I told my husband, this “life” is perhaps one of the few anecdotes he doesn’t hear for the millionth time, since we’ve been together for 33 years and he hasn’t heard from me. never heard of playing bingo before. In it I mention works by Peter Taylor (who was, of course, an incredible writer with a long association with UVA – I spoke about his work a few years ago at UVA, but I promise not to repeat), and Raymond Carver. To my surprise, these two very different writers easily fit into the same discussion. (Let’s see if I’m right).

The second talk will be partly about visual imagery in stories and how writers leave it to the reader to complete some of the visual imagery, especially since these gestures, whether physical or metaphorical, give a different meaning to the story.

Q. You published your first novel in a long time this year. What else have you written in recent years?

A. I have been asked this question several times while I was advertising my novel “A Wonderful Luck”, which came out at the beginning of April. Well, I was teaching at the AVU one semester a year for 12 years, until 2013, and after I left, I read or reread (a pleasure) every Peter Taylor short story (there are a lot of them), for the second volume of the Library of America edition, “Peter Taylor: The Complete Stories”, edited by Christopher Carduff, with my introduction. Two of my story books have been published: “The State We’re In: Maine Stories” [in 2016] and “The Accomplished Guest” in 2017. During this time, I was writing and reviewing the new novel.

Q. How does it feel to come back to Charlottesville?

A. I certainly would never have thought of returning after I finished teaching the Fall 2012 semester, so it was with surprise, gratitude and pleasure that I was asked to be the Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. . The AVU was my first job when I left doctoral school in 1975. I arrived the same year as [now retired] Gordon Braden and Gregory Orr – still friends.


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