Don's Diary

June 16, 2000

September.

Visit the set of Dog Days, a film based on one of my short stories from Flying Leap. It is a sort of absurdist fable set in post-apocalyptic suburbia. It is bizarre to find my words translated into a three-dimensional world: the houses, the atmosphere, my characters wandering around. The actors look haggard. I feel sorry for them. Later, I learn it is just their make-up.

November.

Begin a publicity tour to support the American publication of my novel If I Told You Once. I get the largest audiences in New York, where I live, and in my hometown of Atlanta, where relatives, old friends and my third-grade teacher turn up.

I like to read the most fantastical parts of the book: on the cannibalistic brother or on street cleaners who clear away unwanted people. At every reading, people ask if the book is based on my family. It makes me wonder if they have been paying attention.

January.

Begin preparing for my two creative writing classes: composing a reading list, practice exercises and writing games. It is easy to teach a student how to be a competent writer with all the technical skills, but it is next to impossible to teach him or her how to come up with ideas and find the magic within the machinery.

February.

I discover I must expand my reading list because I make the shocking discovery that most of my students have never read Lolita or Metamorphosis, nor heard of Flannery O'Connor. The students are conventional, cautious writers. I try to provoke them to be more experimental by giving them stories by Barthelme, Okri, Carter, Calvino and Borges.

March.

I touch down in Boston for the premiere of Dog Days. I have seen cuts at various stages, but not the final product. The director and I were worried about the audience's reaction - the film (and story) are dark and funny but we are nervous the audience will see only the bleakness. I am relieved to hear bursts of shocked, uncomfortable laughter.

April.

Exciting news that my novel has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. This is an unexpected honour. I have always thought my writing had a very American sensibility and I am surprised other readers can relate to it.

June.

Visit London for the first time, to attend the various events surrounding the prize. I have never taken part in something of this magnitude before. In New York, we pack into dark, smoke-filled rooms to hear readers who are constantly interrupted by sirens and espresso machines. The Orange Prize events are larger, more dignified and more brightly lit. On the last night we even get flowers - it feels a bit like a debutante ball. It is a memorable experience, even though I head home without the prize.

Judy Budnitz teaches creative writing at Brown University, Rhode Island. If I Told You Once is published by Flamingo, Pounds 12.99. Flying Leap is published later this year.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Professorship in Behavioural Science LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE
Foundation Partnerships Officer LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE

Most Commented

Social media icons

Gabriel Egan laments the narcissistic craving for others’ approval brought on, he says, by the use of social networking websites

James Fryer illustration (8 September 2016)

Some lecturers will rightly encourage forms of student interaction that are impossible for those covering their faces, Eric Heinze argues

University of Oxford students walking on campus

University of Oxford snatches top spot from Caltech in this year’s World University Rankings as Asia’s rise continues

Handwritten essay on table

Universities must pay more attention to the difficulties faced by students, says Daniel Dennehy

Theresa May entering 10 Downing Street, London

The prospect of new grammar schools on the horizon raises big questions for HE, writes Nick Hillman