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The Art of Writing Short

March 16, 2010 12:00 PM
Tammy C. Barney newwave@tulane.edu

Amy Hempel, the 25th Zale-Kimmerling Writer-in-Residence at Tulane, has mastered the art of the short story. She once wrote — and had published — a story that was one sentence.


"The shorter the better," Amy Hempel said of short stories on Monday (March 15) during a reading in the Kendall Cram Lecture Hall at the Lavin-Bernick Center. (Photo by Cheryl Gerber)

"I love short short stories," Hempel said during a reading on the Tulane uptown campus on Monday (March 15). "The shorter the better."

"Just once in my life — oh, when have I ever wanted anything just once in my life?" she wrote in "Memoir," the shortest of short stories appearing in The Dog of The Marriage (2005).

Hempel is author of four short-story collections and the Briggs-Copeland Lecturer at Harvard University. She is spending this week at the Newcomb College Center for Research on Women and visiting classes to talk about her technique as well as give students advice about their work.

During Monday's hour-long event at the Kendall Cram Lecture Hall in the Lavin-Bernick Center, about 250 people listened intently as Hempel read new stories and a few from her most recent publication, The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel (2006). She also took questions from the audience.

When asked about the importance of place in a story, Hempel said, "Place is hugely important to me. Place has character. I've been asking my students to look at what happens in a place that doesn't happen anywhere else. Certainly, anyone writing in New Orleans would understand this. Place is a big deal."

Dana Zale Gerard, a 1985 Newcomb College graduate, established the Zale Writer-in-Residence program in 1985.

An annual gift from the M. B. and Edna Zale Foundation of Dallas made the program possible, and Barnes & Noble College Booksellers has supported it since 2006. This year, Martha McCarty Kimmerling, a 1963 Newcomb College graduate, fully endowed the program, and the name was changed.

Tammy C. Barney is the external affairs officer for the Newcomb College Institute.