March 27, 2008 — Amy Hempel, a master of the short story who has been compared to Grace Paley, Alice Munro and University of Virginia English professor Ann Beattie, will be on Grounds March 31 through April 4 as this semester's Rea Visiting Writer in Fiction, sponsored by U.Va,'s Creative Writing Program.
Hempel will give a talk about writing April 1 and will read from her work April 3. Both events, free and open to the public, will take place at 8 p.m. in the U.Va. Bookstore.
Hempel, a lecturer in creative writing at Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts, is well-known for her works in fiction, her "short, highly imagistic, sparely plotted, stiletto-keen slice of narrative that in her hands glistens in its sheerness," according to a Booklist reviewer. "For that she has made short story history."
"The Collected Stories," published in 2006, contains her previous four volumes. In 1985, she published her first collection, "Reason to Live," which won the Commonwealth Club of California Silver Medal. Hempel is also the author of "At the Gates of the Animal Kingdom," (1991) "Tumble Home" (1998) and in 2005, "The Dog of the Marriage." She co-edited the 1999 anthology, "Unleashed: Poems by Writer's Dogs."
The first story she ever wrote, "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried," was originally published in TriQuarterly in 1983, and is one of the most frequently anthologized stories of the last 25 years.
Her stories have appeared in Vanity Fair, Harper's, The Quarterly, The Yale Review and several anthologies, including The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. She also works as a contributing editor to Bomb Magazine.
Hempel has taught at a number of colleges and universities across the country, including Sarah Lawrence University, New York University, Saint Mary's College, the University of Missouri, Bennington College and The New School University. She was born in Chicago in 1951 and lives in New York City.
Hempel has won several prestigious literary awards for her work, including the Hobson Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. "The Collected Stories" was one of the New York Times' Ten Best Books of the Year and a finalist for the PEN-Faulkner Award. Hempel also has received a United States Artists Fellowship and an Award for Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The highest nationally ranked graduate program at the University of Virginia, the Creative Writing Program in the English department is a small, two-year course of graduate study.
The Rea Visiting Writers Program brings one writer of fiction and one poet to the Grounds each year for a weeklong residency. Past Rea writers have included Ann Beattie, Tim O’Brien, W.S. Merwin and Jamaica Kincaid. In addition to scheduled talks and readings, the writers work closely with students in classes and workshops during their stay.
Rea funds also support other readings during the year by both emerging and established writers who make brief visits and meet informally with students.
The Rea Visiting Writers program was launched in 1987 with a $5,000 gift from the late Michael Moorhead Rea, a 1952 alumnus, and it has continued with the support of his widow, Elizabeth Richebourg Rea.