Author Joyce Carol Oates has kicked it out since 1963—more than 50 novels, 33 collections of short stories and a bunch of other stuff (poetry, plays, pseudononymous crime novels), and, at 70, she's still going strong. It's safe to say she's one of the country's greatest living writers.
Speculation about her jaw-dropping productivity swirls around her: She writes in a trance. She's a recluse. She never revises. But, in fact, Oates' recipe is simple: She writes every single day.
Typically she writes from 8 a.m. until 1 or 2 p.m. She takes a break to bicycle or run and do errands. By 4 p.m., she's back and works until dinner.
In an e-mail interview, Oates reveals the intensity of her focus: “When I write short stories, I may be working on several simultaneously. But when I am immersed in a novel it is a total immersion—there is really nothing of me left over, no corner of the imagination, for anything but the novel exerting its powerful gravitational pull.”
Oates has just finished Little Bird of Heaven, which she describes as “a love story in the guise of a mystery; or a mystery in the guise of a love story. Mostly it is an elegy mourning the passing of a way of life in a small city in upstate New York, hard hit by the economic recession of recent decades.”
The publication date for the book's not been set, but another new one, My Sister, My Love, went on sale a few months ago. The book's publisher describes it as “a dark, wry, satirical tale—inspired by an unsolved American true-crime mystery.” This year also saw the publication of Wild Nights: Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James and Hemingway.
On Monday, Nov. 24, Oates will read from her favorite works at BookWorks bookstore (2670 Via de la Valle in Del Mar) at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but space is limited, so show up early. She'll also appear at the Faculty Club on the UCSD campus from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23. Space is very limited at the Sunday appearance, and admission will be first-come, first-served. A reservation is required—contact Taylor Haglund at 858-534-1183 or UCSDLibraries@ucsd.edu.