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Word Works: Steve Almond on Rendering the Interior Life

May 21 at 7:00 PM

While in graduate school in the 1990s, a friend of Steve Almond’s handed him a novel that fundamentally changed the way he thought about writing. That book was Stoner by John Williams, which follows the travails of a college professor whose life from the outside seems unremarkable, even forgettable, but whose inner life is rendered so acutely that the book has become a must-read among writers.

In his Word Works lecture, Almond will detail critical lessons he’s learned from Stoner about diving deep into the innermost being of a character, which not only makes for thrilling fiction but, in an age of social media posturing, may help reconnect us to something missing from our modern lives.

Following the talk, Almond will be interviewed onstage by local essayist Anna Vodicka.


Steve Almond is the author of eight books of fiction and nonfiction, including the New York Times bestsellers Candyfreak and Against Football. His short stories have been anthologized widely, in the Best American Short Stories, thePushcart PrizeBest American Erotica, and Best American Mysteries series. His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. He teaches at the Nieman Fellowship for Journalism at Harvard, and was the cohost of the New York Times podcast Dear Sugars with fellow writer Cheryl Strayed.


“…I find it tremendously hopeful that Stoner is thriving in a world in which capitalist energies are so hellbent on distracting us from the necessary anguish of our inner lives. Stoner argues that we are measured ultimately by our capacity to face the truth of who we are in private moments, not by the burnishing of our public selves. It is, in other words, a searing condemnation of our current cultural moment — one that happens to have been written nearly 50 years ago.”

—Steve Almond, from his New York Times Magazine article, “You Should Seriously Read ‘Stoner’ Right Now


Anna Vodicka‘s essays have appeared in AFARBrevityGuernicaHarvard ReviewLongreadsMcSweeneys’ Internet TendencyPaste, and Best Women’s Travel Writing 2017. She has had residency fellowships to Vermont Studio Center and Hedgebrook.


Word Works craft talks by novelists, essayists, poets, and memoirists focus on writing as process rather than finished product, examining how language works to inspire and provoke new ideas through live close readings of the writer’s own or others’ work. These talks are designed to apply to writers of all genres as well as illuminate well-known works for avid readers. The talks are followed by an interview with a noted editor, writer, or critic.