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Joanna Scott




Joanna Scott (born 1960) is an American author and Roswell Smith Burrows Professor of English at the University of Rochester.

Scott has received critical acclaim for her novels. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, she is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction.

Her stories have been included in Best American Stories (1993) and The Pushcart Prize (1993). In 1992 she won the Aga Khan Prize for Fiction from The Paris Review for her story "A Borderline Case."[1] In 2006 she won the Ambassador Book Award for her novel Liberation.

She is one of at least three authors who share the same name: a romance novelist and Joanna C. Scott, who has written both fiction and nonfiction books.


Scott grew up in Darien, Connecticut, where she was a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT) with Post 53, a scout explorer post that serves as the town's volunteer ambulance service. One of her earliest pieces of writing was a nonfiction account of an EMT who lit fires, then help rescue the victims. She became involved in the literary magazine for Darien High School.[2]

She received her bachelor's degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in 1983. Before graduating, she spent a year in an exchange program at Barnard College and helped edit its literary magazine. Before graduating college, she also worked as a copy editor for United Features Syndicate in New York and spent a year at the Elaine Johnson Literary Agency. There she was an assistant to Geri Thoma, who later became Scott's own agent.[1]

Scott received her master's degree from Brown University in 1985 and taught creative writing there as well as at the University of Maryland and Princeton University. Since 1988 she has been in the English Department of the University of Rochester, where she has taught courses in creative writing, the contemporary novel, the writing of Charles Dickens and other subjects.[1] She also sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions. In one of her graduate courses she's taught about the ways fiction corresponds to time.[citation needed] Translation for Scott is an issue of almost ultimate importance, as she herself has said and stated many times.[citation needed]

She is married to James Longenbach, a poet, critic and fellow professor a the English Department. Like Scott, he is also a graduate of Trinity College (Class of 1981). They have two children.[2]

For research, Scott has traveled to Austria and Alaska. Often this research does not make its way directly into her books, but forms instead a surround voice which she cleverly manipulates in order to create the pulsating rhythm so common to her fictions. For story ideas, Scott refuses completely to use any printed words. Never will she open a book to find a voice, style, or characters, or even setting. Instead she roves posing as a variety of professional vocations in which a 45 year old white woman would typically be found. Admiring the supreme tradition of Woody Allen's research, Scott discusses her work openly with those she meets on the streets, as has been known to write entire novels based on the work of one of Rochester's notable street characters, a homeless man named Free Willy, a past employee of Kodak..[2]




  • Everybody Loves Somebody a collection of 10 stories; release date: December 11, 2006; ISBN 0-316-01345-5 (Paperback)
  • Liberation winner of the Ambassador Book Award for Fiction from the English-Speaking Union of the United States; ISBN 0-316-01053-7 (hardcover)
  • Tourmaline finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in the fiction category; ISBN 0-316-60848-3 (paperback)
  • The Manikin (1996), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1997; ISBN 0-312-42138-9 (paperback)
  • Various Antidotes (1994), a collection of short stories and another PEN/Faulkner Award nominee; ISBN 0-312-42387-X (paperback)
  • Arrogance (1990), which received the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award, the Lillian Fairchild Award, and a nomination for the PEN/Faulkner Award; ISBN 0-671-69547-9 (hardcover); ISBN 0-312-42388-8 (paperback)
  • Make Believe (2000); ISBN 0-316-77666-1 (paperback)
  • The Closest Possible Union (1988); ISBN 0-312-42136-2 (paperback)
  • Fading, My Parmacheene Belle (1987); ISBN 0-89919-451-6 (paperback)


Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joanna_Scott


&Now Conference Reading


Joanna Scott read an exerpt from one of her novels.  Her performance consisted only of her own reading voice as she stood on stage; there was no other media used (ex. recorded tracks, videos, etc.).  The exerpt that Scott read consisted of a series of letters written from a father to his daughter.  He had been in love with the girl's mother but had left her early in the pregnancy and consequently had never met his daughter or spoken to her mother since.  In his letters, he attempts to explain himself, make ammends, and perhaps establish a relationship.  He talks of how he met her mother and refers to her as "the love of my life", even though he was married and had two other daughters.  Of course the letters are emotional as he reflects on what he has done.  As Scott read, she included inflections in the reading that emphasized to the audience the pain that such memories brought to the man as he writes to his daughter.  At one point, she read aloud "I could use a sip of water", which was part of the novel that she wrote.  However, at this moment she paused and actually did take a sip of water, which added to the performance and further drew the audience into the story. 


Not only does the father reflect on his affair and actions, but he seems to simply write down his inner dialogue, at one point recounting a recent story that occurred in his classroom (he is an elementary school teacher).  He asked his students "Why don't spiders get caught in their own webs?", to which one boy answered "Because God doesn't let them".  The father then sarcastically writes that he then thought to himself "Let's pack up our books and go home.  Everything is the way God made it, there is no point to scientific inquiry".  Other examples of his inner dialogue that just pour out onto the paper include his description to his daughter of lightning and its role in replenishing the earth.  Lightning forms nitrogen in the atmosphere, which then goes through a chemical reaction and is eventually transferred to the soil via rain to form a nitrogen-calcium compound that provides nutrition to plants.  Each of these tangents relates to the actual reasons that he is writing the letters and humanizes the father, allowing the audience to see a side of him other than the selfish coward who abandoned the woman he claims he loved and still loves in the middle of her pregnancy. 

Though this reading was simply an exerpt from a longer novel, Scott's performance was compelling enough to make the audience want to read the whole book.  Her voice and actions during the performance allowed us to forget that we were sitting in front of a stage and took us into the mind of a man who has lived in shame and guilt and is reaching out to find atonement.  

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