Seek and Write

Students and Edwidge Dandicat pose on the steps of Old West

Re-enacting the photo taken during a campus visit by Robert Frost, this year's Stellfox awardee, Edwidge Danticat, poses on the steps of Old West with students. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Edwidge Danticat concludes her Stellfox residency with public address and book signing

by Tony Moore

At her public reading on campus Thursday night, Edwidge Danticat told aspiring writers in attendance, “Just seek the truth and write about it.” And as any reader familiar with her work knows, it’s an approach Danticat has fully embraced over the course of her writing career.

Danticat was on campus as the 2015-16 recipient of the Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program award. And her reading and subsequent book signing capped off a residency that included meetings with students and classroom visits.

The Stellfox program brings high-caliber writers to campus each year for a mini residency, and previous Stellfox awardees have included Booker Prize-winning authors Ian McEwan and Margaret Atwood, Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and Pulitzer Prize-winning poets Rita Dove and Paul Muldoon.

Danticat touched on subjects such as the importance of the mother-daughter relationship, the foibles and power dynamics of parenting, the Haitian diaspora and the surprising forms her writing takes as she crafts her novels and short stories.

“That’s one of the most exciting parts of the process: Writing and then seeing the story reveal itself to you,” she told a packed Allison Great Hall. “That’s very exciting to me, to be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that was coming!’ ”

Edwidge Danticat

Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Besides the reading, Danticat sat in on four classes—Creative Nonfiction Writing, Introduction to Literary Analysis and Theory, The Haitian Diaspora and Evil and Anxiety in Global Contemporary Fiction—and met with students in casual settings.

“Even now, as a second semester senior, I am constantly impressed with the breadth and quality of the visiting lecturers that Dickinson manages to bring to campus,” said Isabelle Minasian ’16 (English). “Having a writer like Danticat come to Dickinson creates an incredible opportunity to interact with one of the most talented writers today, and hearing her speak was an excellent source of inspiration in the last two weeks before my thesis is due!”

Haitian-born Danticat is the author of several books, including Krik? Krak! (National Book Award finalist), Breath, Eyes, Memory and Brother, I’m Dying (2007 finalist for the National Book Award and 2008 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for autobiography).

The Stellfox Visiting Scholars and Writers Program is funded by a gift from Jean Louise Stellfox, a 1960 graduate of Dickinson who was inspired to become an English teacher after meeting Robert Frost during the poet’s visit to the college in 1959. When Stellfox died in 2003, her estate provided $1.5 million to the college to continue her mission of inspiring students by bringing renowned literary figures to campus. Stellfox named the program in honor of her parents, Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox.

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Published April 11, 2016