May 2010

Maureen Howard


in conversation with

Joanna Scott


“Are you talking about the danger of losing the reader if we shake up the form, or the danger of losing our minds?”
Unsung sources of suspense:
The delays of a meandering narrative
The invention of competing voices
Table tennis

Joanna Scott is the author of two collections of stories and eight novels, most recently Follow Me (Little, Brown, 2009). She has lived with her family in Italy, pursuing her fiction, but is settled in upstate New York, where she teaches at the University of Rochester. Joanna is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Lannan Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Rosenthal Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Maureen Howard is the author of nine novels and a memoir, Facts of Life, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. The Rags of Time (Viking, 2009) is the last in a series of novels celebrating the four seasons. She is the recipient of the Academy Award in Literature from the Academy of Arts and Letters. She was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and made her way to New York where she has lived for many years with the comfort of family. She teaches at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

Scott and Howard met when they were seated next to each other at dinner at a Houston writing festival one night in 1991, and continued talking at a PEN/Faulkner gathering in Washington, D.C., later that year. Joanna was expecting her first child. Maureen and Joanna have been talking children and writing ever since. Their girls are now well grown. The exchange that follows took place over email in the winter of 2009–2010.


JOANNA SCOTT: Time is short, and there’s so much to do. Time is short and you’ve managed to complete the whole of your four seasons. It was a daring thing to take on, Maureen. Did you know what you were getting into when you started writing A Lover’s Almanac?

MAUREEN HOWARD: I knew the stories would continue; the time allotted in the earliest season might not be enough. We were heading to the millennium, a date of reckoning, so the media thought, the computer folk, too. I had no crystal ball, just faith that our stories must go on as they always have—in the cave, the schoolroom, on-screen, and in a generosity of time offered by the novel. I had come across Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac, portioning out the year with entertainments, fanciful stories, yet always wise in Franklin’s advice.

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