Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ WorkshopPosted: 2018/09/25
Grimes, Tom, ed. Workshop: Seven Decades of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop: 43 Stories , Recollections, & Essays on Iowa’s Place in Twentieth-Century American Literature. New York: Hyperion, 1999.
Reason read: Grimes celebrates a birthday in September. Read in his honor.
The Iowa Writers’ Workshop became a national institution in the early 1950s, but before that, as early as the late 1890s, the Workshop was designed to teach “verse making.” The University of Iowa wanted to cultivate writers with something creative to say. They developed the first creative writing program in the country and it continues to be one of the best. Why? Obviously, it is the writers who come out of the program. Then there’s this: “Unsurprisingly, a psychological survey of the Iowa Workshop showed that 80 percent of writers in the program reported evidence of manic-depression, alcoholism, or other lovely addictions in themselves or their immediate families” (p 9).
- Chip off the Old Block by Wallace Stegner.
- And In My Heart by R.V. Cassill. Best line: “As if the arrow at the heart could listen to the merely human cry that protests its flight” (p 55).
- The Comforts of Home by Flannery O’Connor.
- The Illegibility of This World by Richard Stern. Best line: “Fear gets so loud, I can’t sleep” (p 118).
- The Fisherman Who Got Away by Thomas Williams.
- Offspring of the First Generation by Bette Pesetsky.
- The Hustler by Walter Tevis.
- Put Yourself in My Shoes by Raymond Carver.
- Saints by Bharati Mukherjee.
- Dunkleblau by Clark Blais.
- Falling in Love by Andre Dubus.
- The Last Generation by Joy Williams.
- A More Complete Cross-Section by John Casey.
- A Sorrowful Woman by Gail Godwin.
- Thirty-Four Seasons of Winter by William Kittredge.
- Mouses by Thom Jones. “I’m embarrassed to admit that I was a little afraid to confront the consequences” (p 247).
- A Solo Song: For Doc by James Alan McPherson.
- Paper Latern by Stuart Dybek.
- Work by Denis Johnson
- His Dog by Ron Hansen
- A Woman’s Restaurant by T. Coraghessan Boyle.
- Aren’t You Happy For Me? by Richard Bausch.
- Blessed Assurance: a Moral Tale by Allan Gurganus.
- Long Distance by Jane Smiley.
- Alma by Jayne Anne Phillips.
- White Angel by Michael Cunningham.
- Mundo’s Sign by Bob Shacochis.
- The Story of My Life by Kim Edwards.
- Birthmates by Gish Jen.
- The Year of Getting to Know Us by Ethan Canin.
- The Zealous Mourner by Marly Swick.
- The Commuter by Colin Harrison.
- Planting by Kathryn Harrison.
- The Sutton Pie Safe by Pinckney Benedict.
- Here’s Your Hat What’s Your Hurry by Elizabeth McCracken.
- Out of the Woods by Chris Offutt.
- Open House by Charles D’Ambrosio.
- Lilacs by Abraham Verghese.
- A Hole in the Sheets by Susan Power.
- Brownsville by Tom Piazza.
- Pipa’s Story by Lan Samantha Chang.
- Buckeye the Elder by Brady Udall.
- Speaking in Tongues by ZZ Packer.
Other quotes I liked, “Good writers are ruthless, and willing to say anything” (p 377).
Author Editor fact: Not surprising, Tom Grimes is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. At the time of The Workshop publication, he directed the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southwest Texas State University.
Book trivia: There was only one story I had a problem with. Marly Swick in The Zealous Mourner has a detail about her character making a point of locking a bathroom door and yet, there is no mention of anyone UNlocking it when the husband stands in the doorway, blinking in the harsh light and announcing he has to pee.
Nancy said: Nancy suggested if you wanted to read up on more writers who spent time in Iowa to check out The Workshop.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Growing Writers” (p 108).