In August, Téa Obreht was honored as this year’s Marino Family International Writers’ Academic Workshop author at Georgetown University. The Marino Family International Writers’ Academic Workshop has been taking place at Georgetown since 1995 and has featured authors such as Mario Vargas Llosa, Margaret Atwood, Dinaw Mengestu (a Georgetown alumnus), and Orhan Pamuk. The Workshop serves as students’ introduction to the academic life at Georgetown and is an integral part of the freshman experience. It affirms Georgetown’s commitment to the highest academic standards and adds a significant international cultural dimension to the academic formation of Georgetown students.
Obreht’s talk with the Class of 2016 during New Student Orientation included thoughts about her writing process. Though her debut novel The Tiger’s Wife officially took her three years to write, she said, she realized that she had been writing the book her entire life. She discussed how her own stories, drawn from her childhood in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious household and from the many places she had lived, impacted her writing. Through her writing process, she came to understand that a narrative arc occurs in life as well as in writing, and that everything is connected, even if the connections aren’t immediately apparent.
Her lecture was followed by a lively question and answer session with the students, who were interested in learning more about everything from the meaning of the symbols in the book, to the origin of the mythological characters, to how the story relates to Obreht’s own experiences. Many of the questions focused on the actual mechanics of writing The Tiger’s Wife: How do you separate your fiction from your own life? Why do even minor characters have such detailed histories? How do you write such a neutral novel about an area so rife with political and ethnic tensions? Obreht’s candid responses provided valuable insights to the class of young scholars, which surely included a few aspiring novelists.
After the lecture, the students broke into small discussion groups led by faculty mentors to comment on and debate the novel’s premises, challenge one another’s interpretations, and discuss their questions. To the pleasure of a handful of lucky students and faculty members, Obreht attended a few of the discussion sections to meet the students and answer a few more questions. Students and mentors alike were thrilled with the selection of The Tiger’s Wife and Obreht’s presentation.
View the photos below from Obreht’s visit to Georgetown Univeristy: