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Writer reads about Chicago

Posted on 03.27.2013

Award-winning writer Stuart Dybek came to the University of Indianapolis on March 19 as a part of the Kellogg Writers Series to read his story “We Didn’t.”

Dybek first spoke to an English class on the morning of March 19 about writing both poetry and prose. He talked about how he does not see the two genres as completely separate.

“I look at poetry and prose like they are on a continuum and each person falls somewhere on that continuum,” Dybek said.

Dybek was invited to participate in the Kellogg Writers Series by Associate Professor of English and Director of the Kellogg Writers Series Elizabeth Weber.

“I knew of Stuart Dybek first as a poet. I would read his poetry,” Weber said. “But I really asked him because of his fiction.”

Weber said she noticed that students in some of  her classes gravitated towards one of Dybek’s stories that was anthologized in a textbook she uses.

“Everybody picked the story ‘We Didn’t,’ and they loved it,” Weber said.

According to Dybek, “We Didn’t” started out as a poem that was a response to Yehuda Amichai’s poem “We Did It.” He said that a poem turning into a story happens frequently in his writing.

“It happens fairly often, but it never happens the other way around,” Dybek said.

According to Weber, another reason Dybek was chosen for the Kellogg Writers Series was that a former reader of the series,  Mark Turcotte,  recommended him. Another factor that helped bring Dybek to campus was that he lives in the Midwest.

“He lives in Chicago, so he is kind of local,” Weber said.

Writer Stuart Dybek, a Chicago native and professor at Northwestern University, reads his short story “We Didn’t” at the Kellogg Writers Series on March 19. Photo by Annisa Nunn

Throughout the reading, Dybek referred to himself as a writer of place. He primarily writes about Chicago but had trouble doing so while he lived there.  Dybek said that he started writing about Chicago after he moved away and taught in the Caribbean for a few years.

“Once the city was not competing with my imagination, I could write about it,” he said.

This seems to be a common theme in Dybek’s writing. He said he was only able to write about the Caribbean after he moved away from there.

“One thing about being a writer of place is that I want people to realize the validity and the interesting aspects of their place,” Dybek said. “No matter how modest, humble or beat up, it has some human element about it that is unique.”

Dybek has two new books coming out in the spring of 2014. The books “Ecstatic Cahoots” and “Paper Lantern” will be released simultaneously.  According to Dybek, he will be doing an extensive book tour for the release of these books.

The next writer in the Kellogg Writers Series is poet Quan Barry, who was born in Saigon but grew up in Boston.

“I wanted somebody who was a little different than what we have had in the past,” Weber said. “I felt the need for a little multiculturalism.”

Barry will read in UIndy Hall C on April 4 at 7:30 p.m.


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