Volume 75
Number 3

"We Teach Possibilities"

Ghost Stories

In Hog Heaven











“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.”

--American author Mary Heaton Vorse







“We teach possibilities”

Go to: Joseph Skibell Profile
Jim Grimsley Profile
Ha Jin wins National Book Award

On the eve of its tenth anniversary, the Creative Writing Program adds two gifted new voices to a chorus that promotes—and produces—prose and poetry

NOTHING IS MORE DAUNTING TO A WRITER THAN A BLANK PAGE. All the possibilities are there. Agony. Ecstasy. Mediocrity. Why a particular writer chooses to write, how he or she approaches the blank page, are ineffable questions. The important thing is that they write.

Colleges and universities across the country are now nurturing the next generation of American writers, and some fifty young people are majoring in creative writing at Emory. Founded by Candler Professor of Renaissance Literature Frank Manley in 1990, the Emory Creative Writing Program added two gifted new voices to its ranks this fall—Joseph Skibell, whose debut novel, A Blessing on the Moon, has been called “startlingly original,” and Atlanta novelist and playwright Jim Grimsley, whose palette ranges from the earthy to the elegiac.

“One of the things that is so critical when you are a writer is learning to revise, so we teach students how to confront their own work,” says Lynna Williams, who has directed the program since January. “Our whole approach to writing is that it is a process. We have to get our students over the idea that their work has to be good at every stage. It doesn’t have to be good at every stage, it simply has to be there. You have to commit yourself to the process. And the most wonderful part of our classes is that people begin to understand that; they don’t close themselves off from possibilities. We teach possibilities.”

The arrival of Skibell and Grimsley will provide Emory students with significant new possibilities. Skibell, who has written for film and television, will teach the University’s first screenwriting class, and Grimsley, who has served as playwright-in-residence at Atlanta’s 7Stages theater, will add advanced playwriting to the curriculum.

Skibell and Grimsley join a team whose personal voices are distinct—and distinguished.

Manley, who began his career as a poet, received the Devins Award for Poetry for his book Resultances and was co-winner of the Great American New Play Contest for his work Two Masters. He recently completed a literary hat trick with the publication of his first novel, The Cockfighter.

Williams is the author of a collection of short fiction, Things Not Seen and Other Stories, which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 1992. She has been widely published in literary journals and magazines, including the August 1999 issue of Atlantic Monthly, which includes her story “Comparative Religion.”

National Book Award winner Xuefei Jin, a poet and novelist who writes under the name Ha Jin, joined the creative writing faculty in 1993 and recently received a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on a novel in progress.

Some graduates of Emory’s writing program have enrolled in MFA programs at other universities, attended film school, or entered the book industry. Others have chosen such careers as law and medicine.

“There are a lot of different ways to measure success,” Williams says, “and I think we have been successful in almost all the ways you can measure.”—A.B.




©1999 Emory University