Abigail DeWitt is the author of three novels, Lili (WW Norton), Dogs (Lorimer Press), and News of Our Loved Ones (HarperCollins). The New York Times described her work as “engrossing and ambitious” and Dogs, which was a Boston Globe bestseller, was described by the Charlotte Observer as “a work of art.” News of Our Loved Ones, her most recent novel, was named an Editor’s Choice by both Book Browse and the Historical Novel Society. Often compared to Irène Némerovsky’s Suite Française, the novel, based on DeWitt’s family’s experiences during WWII, received rave reviews from Booklist, Ms. Magazine, Lilith, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Book Page, The Greensboro News & Record, The Wilmington Star, and many other publications.
Her short fiction, which has been cited in The Best American Short Stories and nominated for a Pushcart, has appeared in such journals as Narrative, Five Points, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Witness, the Carolina Quarterly, the Journal, and Salamander. Her nonfiction has been published in LitHub, the LA Review of Books, BookTrib, Vida, and other outlets.
The recipient of grants and fellowships from the North Carolina Arts Council, the McColl Center for the Arts, the Tyrone Guthrie Center, and the Michener Society, DeWitt has taught creative writing at Harvard University Summer School, UNC-Asheville, and Appalachian State University. In 2010, she was the Writer-in-Residence at Lenoir-Rhyne University. She is on the permanent faculty of the Table Rock Writers Workshop (formerly the Duke University Writers Workshop) and has taught in writing workshops throughout the east coast and in France.
She received her B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard University, and her M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers Workshop, where she studied with James Alan McPherson.
Online at www.abigaildewitt.com
Instagram at @abigaildewittauthor.
Body & Soul: Studies in Character Development
Stories take off when our characters surprise us. When we are no longer trying to control the narrative, but are, instead, allowing our characters to lead the way, the work comes alive in ways that can seem equally magical to the writer and the reader. But how to achieve that seemingly magical state? One of the most powerful ways we have of creating characters who are capable of surprising us is by focusing on their bodies. What physical scars or imperfections do they have? What smells do they hate or love? How do they see themselves physically? How do they walk/dance/swim/drive a car? What textures, tastes, colors, and sounds move or scare or excite them? By focusing on these and other sensory-based questions, we can discover key traits and histories we didn’t realize they possessed. At the same time, attending to our characters’ bodies forces us to write from our own bodies, rather than our heads. We leave our abstract ideas behind and begin to access more of the unconscious story that motivated us to write in the first place.
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