Award-winning writer-in-residence to share work

Elizabeth Gilbert will satisfy both lovers of fiction, nonfiction

Writers in the Library continues its Spring series with readings by Elizabeth Gilbert, current Writer-in-Residence in the English Dept., Monday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. in the Lindsay Young Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Gilbert has written creative nonfiction for Spin, Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar; in fact, an article written for GQ about her time working in a Manhattan bar was the basis for the 2000 film Coyote Ugly. Her time at the Coyote Ugly Saloon was merely one of the life experiences Gilbert used as a writer’s education before settling into writing in New York.

Instead of going into a Masters of Fine Arts program after getting her undergraduate degree from New York University, the Connecticut native chose to travel, to learn about real people and real situations. Educating herself on real life was the main reason she decided on political science rather than English for her degree.


After college, Gilbert worked as a waitress in Philadelphia and a trail chef in Wyoming, and two years later, found herself in Bob Guccione Jr.’s office at Spin working as a temp for three days while his assistant was on vacation. She had no office experience and spent most of her time trying to sell her writing skills. Later, after selling a short story to Esquire, she sent a copy of the article and a note to Guccione and was soon writing for his magazine as well.

In 1997, Gilbert left journalism and published a collection of short fiction called Pilgrims, which was selected as a New York Times Notable Book, called one of the “Most Intriguing Books of 1997″ by Glamour Magazine and a finalist for the 1998 PEN/Hemingway Award. While writing a novel was not on Gilbert’s to-do list, Stern Men, about Maine’s lobster fishermen, was published in 2000. In 2002, she wrote a book about Eustace Conway, whom she profiled in GQ in 1998. The Last American Man details Conway’s life as a mountain man in the Appalachians of North Carolina and was nominated for a 2002 National Book Award for Nonfiction.

Because she has written fiction and nonfiction, as well as the “fourth genre” of creative nonfiction for magazines, Gilbert does not see a major difference between the genres. To her, writing narratives in fiction or nonfiction are no different, which spices her writing with natural dialog, colorful scenes and deep stories. A writer of American life, Gilbert is noted for coaxing out the stories of people on the edge of traditional Americana.

The Writers in the Library series is sponsored by the University of Tennessee Libraries and the Creative Writing Program of the UT English Department. For further information, please contact Jo Anne Deeken, Head of Technical Services, UT Libraries, at 974-6905 or deeken@nullaztec.lib.utk.edu, or R.B. Morris, Writer in Residence, UT Libraries, at 974-3004 or rbmorris@nullutk.edu.

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