Pulitzer Prize winner talks technique as part of Seven Days of Opening Nights master class

Pulitzer Prize-winning author
Jennifer Egan speaks to FSU
students during a master class
during the Seven Days of
Opening Nights arts festival.

Jennifer Egan, a best-selling novelist and winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, recently won the hearts of about 40 students and faculty members in an intimate master class that was part of the annual Seven Days of Opening Nights festival of the arts at Florida State University.

Egan, who earned the Pulitzer for her novel, “A Visit from the Goon Squad,” is the author of five books of fiction, including “The Invisible Circus,” which Time magazine called “an achingly gorgeous coming-of-age novel.” She is also a respected journalist who has written extensively on topics ranging from gay teenagers to homeless families.

What made the Feb. 11 master class so special, students said, was the way Egan opened up about her personal process in writing her latest novel. She spoke humbly about her own experiences with failure and success, encouraged students to remain positive in a profession rife with rejection, and shared her story about balancing a literary career with motherhood.

Egan answered numerous questions about her in-depth creative practices, explaining the techniques she used in her characterizations. She also discussed the development of voice and the extensive revision process that goes into writing any literary work.

“All I can do is try to keep getting better, which is what I think we all have to keep trying to do," Egan told students.

Avni Vyas, a graduate student in creative writing at Florida State, noted that the master class with Egan was a particularly helpful opportunity for aspiring writers.

“It’s so rare to get an insight into how a work is actually written,” Vyas said. “What I really liked was the transparency that she talked about and the ‘brass tacks’ of her writing process.”

Despite all of Egan’s literary success over the past few years, the author said that all she wants to do is continue to become a better writer.

“I just want to write another book. I feel like if I can do that, I’ll be so excited,” she said. “I just want to try and keep doing different things. If I can keep doing that, I’ll be happy. And if other people love it, that’s great, but that’s in the realm of things I can’t control.

“All I can do is try to keep getting better, which is what I think we all have to keep trying to do.”