Students, teacher, flock to Kincaid

Novelist, 'great living writer' gives reading to eager crowd at Kelly Writers House

The Daily Pennsylvanian
March 20, 2007

Media Credit: Phillip Ng
Antiguan-American author Jamaica Kincaid speaks at a reading yesterday evening at the Kelly Writers House. Kincaid is a former contributor to 'The New Yorker' magazine and has written a variety of prose material.

Long before her expected arrival, the audience had already packed the Kelly Writers House Seminar Room, buzzing with anticipation for Jamaica Kincaid's reading last evening.

Best known for her lyrical prose that reflects the challenges of mother-daughter relationships and the effects of colonialism, Kincaid has written books including My Brother, Lucy, and The Autobiography of My Mother.

Before writing her novels, Kincaid experimented with diverse forms of writing while working as a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, drawing creativity from multiple and unexpected sources, such as Nancy Drew mysteries and children's books.

"I started to invent forms. I had to support myself, but in a way I could enjoy," Kincaid explained.

Before diving into short pieces such as "Expense Account" and "New" from her years with The New Yorker, Kincaid shared some of her writing strategies and philosophies.

Kincaid advised that, when writing, "you shouldn't think of an audience, you must only think of yourself," and that good writing comes from practicing "again and again."

For Elissa Mandel, a Penn alumna and English teacher from Randolph High School in New Jersey, the reading was a chance to enrich the studies of her creative writing class students.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to hear from a great, living writer. It's different from a reading in a bookstore," Mandel said.

Mandel also brought four of her students, each of whom studied one book by Kincaid prior to the visit.

College freshman Rhaisa Williams said, "I've read her short story, Girl, and it's peaked my interest."

"Her rhyme is just so different," said Acting Director of the Woman's Center Gloria Gay.

Kincaid's visit is a part of the Kelly Writers House Fellow Program, which introduces highly accomplished authors to young writers in an informal atmosphere.

During Kincaid's three-day stay at Penn, she has also met with undergraduates of the Kelly Writers House Fellows Seminar class and shared discussions about her writings. On Tuesday, Kincaid will conclude her visit with a one-hour interview to be broadcast on the Writers House Web site.