In the Spotlight

LeAnne Howe

LeAnne Howe

University of Georgia, J.O. Eidson Distinguished Professor of American Literature

Athens, Georgia      
Member Since: 1998

About: LeAnne Howe, an enrolled citizen of the Choctaw Nation, teaches at the University of Georgia. Traveling the world has been her greatest joy; while in Japan in 1993, she made nearly everyone she met cry.Savage Conversations, Coffee House Press, 2019, is Howe’s most recent book.

If you could require all of your students to read only one book, which would it be?
The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje

What is the best writing advice that you dispense to your students?
Read everything.

What is the best career advice that you dispense to your students?
To work in a circus, or learn to play the cello, bicycle across Georgia, volunteer for the local fire department, volunteer in a nursing home. Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone. Do something that you can write about later. Otherwise your fiction will not grow, you will not get a publisher, and you will give up creative writing because you will have nothing interesting to say.

Can writing be taught?

Why does creative writing belong in the academy?
It helps a writer at the beginning of their career to understand what they don’t know. That’s okay, but hopefully we encourage people to continue to hone their fiction or poetry and learn new skills.

What are you reading right now?
Weather Reports You. Roni Horn. A Project of VATNASAFN/Library of Water. Stykkisholmur, Iceland. 2007.
I was in Iceland a couple of years ago, and I’m interested in how water and the weather affect the globe. Also, my new novel is set in the Arabian Desert (where I’ve traveled. I lived for a couple of years in Jordan). Water is sacred there.

If you could meet any writer, who would it be?
Marguerite Duras

What do your books look like once you’ve finished reading them? Do they have broken spines and dog-eared pages? Notes in the margins? Or do they still look brand new?
Dog-eared, broken spines. I love them unto death. I clip the pages together and just keep reading them. My writer friends are aghast.

When do you find time to write?
10:00 p.m. – 2 a.m.

What do you do when you should be writing, but just can’t find the motivation?

Where do you get your best reading recommendations?
From colleagues, friends, and I haunt bookstores.

Describe your writing process. Do you write every day? For how long? Do you listen to music as you write? Do you type at a computer or write in longhand?
I write sporadically, but at least two or three times a week. I write at night, usually around 10 p.m. until I can’t keep my eyes open. I listen to music. For the past 20 years, maybe longer, I type all drafts at the computer, and I keep all drafts.

What is the greatest compliment that you could ever receive about your writing?
The greatest compliment I’ve ever received was by a professional baseball player in Texas. He’d read my novel Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story. He said I got it right. In the novel, I’d described a scene in which the Native pitcher is “in the zone,” and he sees his pitch and all the moves around the bases before they happen. His comments made me cry. I’ve never played baseball.

Would you like to share a project you are currently working on?
I’m finishing my novel (at last) about the Middle East, set in 1917 and 2010-11. I had a Fulbright to Jordan in 2010-11, so I was in the region when the Arab Spring occurred. I’d lived in Jordan in 1993-94, so I’m threading all these memories together in a fictional novel.

What is your favorite line from a book?
“Captain Ahab was neither my first husband, nor my last.” — First line from Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund.

What was the first book that you really loved?
N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn. Because I teach Native literature, this is a hard choice; I love so many of the Native writers.

The first book that you hated?
Savage Heart. Savage Secrets. All those romance novels about a “Savage” Indian and a white woman. Crimony. They are stereotypes about American Indians. Just awful.

Why did you decide to join AWP?
I wanted to be in the company of writers. What an incredible experience my first AWP was. Likely in 1998, I think. I felt like I was on a Harley Davidson, and previously I’d been riding a scooter.

What would be your advice to new AWP members on how to make the most of their membership?
Go to everything. Burn out on all the panels, readings, and mingling parties. That’s what I did my first AWP.

What is your favorite AWP conference memory?
Being at the Atlanta AWP conference several years ago and looking around the room and seeing about a million writers all talking at once.

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