College of Arts and Letters

Authors Grisham and McDermott hold Q&A for student writers

by Ciara Brennan ('17)

Alice McDermott talks to a group of students and professors.

SUMMARY: Authors John Grisham and Alice McDermott met with JMU creative writing students and professors for an hour-long Q&A.

On Wednesday afternoon, authors John Grisham and Alice McDermott, who have written nearly 50 books between them, met with JMU creative writing students and professors for an hour-long Q&A before The John Grisham Writers Hour held later that evening at Memorial Hall.


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Inman Majors, a published author in the Department of English and friend of Grisham, introduced the writers before taking a seat among the enthusiastic attendees, about sixty people all told. 

One-by-one students raised their hands. They asked questions ranging from where the authors find their inspiration (Grisham draws upon his experience as a lawyer and the true stories of innocent people who are incarcerated), the makings of a good scene (In McDermott’s opinion, a good scene should naturally arise, feel organic, and carry a sense of inevitability to the reader), as well as the particulars of having an agent (A necessity, both McDermott and Grisham confirmed. “But beware of agents requesting reading fees,” McDermott said). 


Just like the makings of a good scene, the hour unfolded organically. There were no microphones or podiums. Grisham and McDermott bounced between answering students’ questions and asking each other questions of their own. Students leaned forward as the authors spoke candidly about both the challenges and joys of writing. The attentive silence was broken only by laughter, as both the present and future writers shared the joy of a well-told story. 

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Published: Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Last Updated: Monday, March 22, 2021

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