Catching up with Joyce Carol Oates

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Courtesy of Larry D. Moore

Joyce Carol Oates at the 2014 Texas Book Festival on Oct. 25, 2014 in Austin, Texas.

Joyce Carol Oates began her writing career in 1963 with her first published novel, “By the North Gate.” Since then, she has received multiple awards for her writing, such as the O. Henry Award, the National Book Award for Fiction and the Chicago Tribune Literary Prize. At the Tucson Festival of Books on Saturday from 10-11 a.m., she will be a panelist at the Fiction Heavyweights lecture, and from 2:30-3:30 p.m. she will be participating in an interview called “A Conversation with Joyce Carol Oates.” 

Daily Wildcat: How did you first become interested in writing?

Joyce Carol Oates: Like all children, I began with Crayolas and coloring books, then drawing, [and] then ‘storytelling.’

How do you manage your time between teaching at Princeton University and writing?

How do I ‘manage?’ I just divide the time in a plausible way. Teaching is one full day a week. But I am teaching at Stanford [University] this term, again one full day at the university. Preparation is most enjoyable since I am reading interesting student work as well as assignments from an anthology (Hemingway, Faulkner, etc.).

Is there any one genre of writing you prefer over another?

Both the novel and the short story are immensely challenging.

How would you say your writing style has developed since you first began your career?

Individual voices, not my own, are of more interest to me now. I would be less likely to ‘narrate’ a story than to allow individuals to speak from their singular perspectives. I love the varieties and surprises of human speech.

At the Tucson Festival of Books, what will you be focusing on during your talk?

I believe that I will have an on-stage conversation with the screenwriter Lisanne Skyler. 

What has been the hardest part of maintaining your career in writing?

Finding uninterrupted periods of time simply to write and rewrite.

If you could give a piece of advice to a young, aspiring author, what would it be?

Read widely, following your own interests wherever they lead. If you can, take a writing workshop to acquire critical skills and to see how your work impresses others. And don’t be discouraged. 

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