Elizabeth McCracken, former librarian and current creative writing professor at the University of Texas at Austin, gave a reading of her works at the Honors College Commons on Tuesday followed by a reception.
McCracken is the author of 2008’s “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination,” finalist for the National Book Award “The Giant’s House” and L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award winner “Niagara Falls All Over Again.”
She is the recipient of several awards and grants from prestigious organizations including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.
In 1996, McCracken was named as one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists by “Granta” magazine.
“An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination,” her latest memoir, outlines her experience of having a stillborn child.
“When I was writing (‘An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination’), I was not thinking of who my readers might be at all,” McCracken said. “I decided I needed to write about the experience. I wanted to get it on the pages before I forgot it. I certainly couldn’t have written about my first pregnancy during my second pregnancy. When Gus, my second child, was born I started writing. The initial manuscript was really short — only 130 pages. I still had no idea it would necessarily be a book.”
Even though “An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination” deals with a tragic experience, McCracken eloquently uses humor throughout the book.
“When I wrote this book, I had no idea I was being funny. It didn’t seem like there was a joke anywhere near the book, but because making jokes is part of my personality, it was just inevitable,” McCracken said.
“It is absolutely true in writing that humor makes the sad stuff sadder and sad things make the humor funnier, it’s just the complexity of life. Readers are grateful for humor that comes out of horrible moments. If you’re a person who uses humor in your everyday life, it’s going to come out naturally.”
McCracken also spoke of her other writing techniques.
“When it comes to my fiction, I have to edit so much. I can’t think abstractly about what I’m going to write,” McCracken said. “The way you write fiction is the way you think about the world and how you process information. There’s a spectrum for everybody.”
McCracken gave words of advice for amateur writers wishing to be published.
“It’s a combination of luck and perseverance. You hear stories about amazing books that make millions. It’s (the) right place, right time — but sometimes when you don’t get (the) right place, right time in your first submission, you have to be willing to send it out to another place,” McCracken said. “Sometimes you might get published on the first try and sometimes you might get published on the 17th submission, but once the book is published it doesn’t make any difference.”
For more information on Elizabeth McCracken, please visit http://www.elizabethmccracken.com/.