Don's Diary

September.

Visit the set of Dog Days, a film based on one of my short stories from Flying Leap. It is a sort of absurdist fable set in post-apocalyptic suburbia. It is bizarre to find my words translated into a three-dimensional world: the houses, the atmosphere, my characters wandering around. The actors look haggard. I feel sorry for them. Later, I learn it is just their make-up.

November.

Begin a publicity tour to support the American publication of my novel If I Told You Once. I get the largest audiences in New York, where I live, and in my hometown of Atlanta, where relatives, old friends and my third-grade teacher turn up.

I like to read the most fantastical parts of the book: on the cannibalistic brother or on street cleaners who clear away unwanted people. At every reading, people ask if the book is based on my family. It makes me wonder if they have been paying attention.

January.

Begin preparing for my two creative writing classes: composing a reading list, practice exercises and writing games. It is easy to teach a student how to be a competent writer with all the technical skills, but it is next to impossible to teach him or her how to come up with ideas and find the magic within the machinery.

February.

I discover I must expand my reading list because I make the shocking discovery that most of my students have never read Lolita or Metamorphosis, nor heard of Flannery O'Connor. The students are conventional, cautious writers. I try to provoke them to be more experimental by giving them stories by Barthelme, Okri, Carter, Calvino and Borges.

March.

I touch down in Boston for the premiere of Dog Days. I have seen cuts at various stages, but not the final product. The director and I were worried about the audience's reaction - the film (and story) are dark and funny but we are nervous the audience will see only the bleakness. I am relieved to hear bursts of shocked, uncomfortable laughter.

April.

Exciting news that my novel has been shortlisted for the Orange Prize. This is an unexpected honour. I have always thought my writing had a very American sensibility and I am surprised other readers can relate to it.

June.

Visit London for the first time, to attend the various events surrounding the prize. I have never taken part in something of this magnitude before. In New York, we pack into dark, smoke-filled rooms to hear readers who are constantly interrupted by sirens and espresso machines. The Orange Prize events are larger, more dignified and more brightly lit. On the last night we even get flowers - it feels a bit like a debutante ball. It is a memorable experience, even though I head home without the prize.

Judy Budnitz teaches creative writing at Brown University, Rhode Island. If I Told You Once is published by Flamingo, Pounds 12.99. Flying Leap is published later this year.

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Featured Jobs

Lecturer in People Management UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD
Lecturer in Marketing UNIVERSITY OF SALFORD
Faculty Director of Operations QUEENS UNIVERSITY BELFAST
Associate or Assistant Professor WORLD MARITIME UNIVERSITY (WMU)
Head of Policy, Funding & Regulation UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS (MAIN CAMPUS ADDRESS)

Register to continue  

You've enjoyed reading five THE articles this month. Register now to get five more, or subscribe for unrestricted access.

Most Commented

Black scholar at UCL claims that he lost out on a permanent job after his proposed course ‘scared’ the academy

  • David Parkins illustration (28 May 2015)

Is there a way for the two tribes to rub along? An academic and an administrator consider the rules of engagement

  • James Fryer illustration (28 May 2015)

A process at the heart of science is based on faith rather than evidence, says Richard Smith, and vested interests keep it in place

London centre that hosts Moodle environment affected

Diana Beech explains why her choice at the ballot box was an act of defiance against other academics