On Feb. 24, the Creative Writing Series at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville hosted Joy Williams, a critically acclaimed author of American literature, to read excerpts from her novels and host a question and answer session, followed by book signings. “The Quick and the Dead” and “State of Grace” are among her best sellers. Her work has been among the finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.
Williams uses dark humor and profound religious imagery throughout her works. For example, her book “Ninety-Nine Stories of God,” features God doing normal tasks. These include going to the derby and getting a shot for shingles. While reading these, Williams often laughed along with the audience at her writing. She took time with each story, speaking confidently and commanding the audience’s attention.
Williams told audiences how “Ninety-Nine Stories of God” got kickstarted into what it is today.
“The first one I wrote was “One Dim,” and then I just started, I think. I wrote a few lesser ones after that, and then I hit upon the idea of the Lord,” Williams said.
Sarah Kane, a graduate student from UT and former professor, remarked on Williams’ reading.
“She is the bomb. She is amazing,” Kane said. ” I actually felt intimidated by her writing. I think she’s arguably one of the greatest living writers in the U.S. right now.”
Christopher Herbert, event organizer and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, commented on the importance of such events.
“Writing is in many ways a solitary endeavor, and what readings like this give us are rare opportunities for community and inspiration. All writers have to be voracious readers, but for aspiring writers, it’s easy to be intimidated by great books—to feel like they’re something we could never create ourselves,” Herbert said.
He continued, “What I love about readings is how they demystify what it means to be a writer by introducing you to people who are actively doing it and can talk about their lives and their work in personal, accessible terms.”
Additionally, Davis Shoulders, event organizer for Union Ave Books, spoke on the importance of having guests like Williams.
“There’s a very different experience in hearing someone read their own works,” Shoulders said. “There’s just an added, sort of magic or something. You get influence that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up on just reading people’s works. But besides that, it’s kind of like the literary community’s version of church.
Shoulders continued, “Everyone can come together and think about the things they’re excited about. I think it is pivotal for sustaining what we do at the bookstore. But also for the writing community and just for inspiring anyone at all who likes to read and think deeply.”
Williams has more works, such as “The Visiting Privilege,” “The Other Week” and even a children’s book titled “Olivia and the Land of Extra-Ordinary.” Her works can be found on amazon and in Barnes and Noble.
UT’s Creative Writing Series will end on April 20 with Author Gretchen Primack.
Edited by Gracie-Lee Strange and Grace Goodacre
Featured image courtesy of UT Calendar website