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Jill McCorkle on the Art of Character

May 15, 2013 at 7:00 PM - 10:00 PM

In Jill McCorkle’s new book, Life After Life, about the triumphs and challenges of the residents and staff of a retirement home, a mélange of characters, from Sadie Randolph, who has taught every child in town and believes we are all eight years old in our hearts, to Joanna, the hospice volunteer who discovers that her path to a good life lies with helping folks achieve good deaths, cope with the hereafter in tender and humorous ways. 

To create a novel about the intersection of life and death, the characters must be built sturdy enough to breathe fresh air into the most common of literary abstractions. Tonight, McCorkle presents a talk on the art of character development and how to create characters that are so relatable they could be your best friend—or your worst enemy.  

Following the presentation, Tom Schabarum, author of The Palisades, moderates a Q&A with Jill. The event is free, and the bar will be open. 

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About the Authors

Jill McCorkle has the distinction of having her first two novels published on the same day in 1984. Of these novels, The New York Times Book Review said, “One suspects the author of The Cheer Leader is a born novelist, with July 7th, she is also a full grown one.” Since then she has published three other novels—her latest, Life After Life coming March 2013—and four collections of short stories. Five of her books have been named New York Times notable books. McCorkle has received the New England Booksellers Award, the John Dos Passos Prize for Excellence in Literature and the North Carolina Award for Literature. She is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Four of her stories have been tabbed for Best American Short Stories and several have been collected in New Stories from the South. Her short stories have appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, The Oxford American, The Southern Review, Narrative Magazine and The American Scholar among others. Her story “Intervention” is included in the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction.  An essay, “Cuss Time,” originally published in The American Scholar was selected for Best American Essays. Other essays and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Garden and Gun, Southern Living, Our State, Allure and Real Simple.


Tom Schabarum’s is the author of The Palisades, a 2011 Finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. His novella and stories, The Narrows, Miles Deep was listed as a Best Book of 2011 by the Lambda Literary Foundation by Felice Picano. Airstreaming was published in the spring of 2012. Winner of the 2010 Creekwalker Poetry Prize, his poetry can be found online at tomschabarum.com, and has been published in Poet Lore, Flightspifmagazine.com, and The Breakfast District. He is currently working on a manuscript of poetry and the sequel to Airstreaming. He holds an MFA in creative writing and literature from Bennington College.