Alice McDermott and I have taught together at the Writers’ Conference so many times that we’ve become the workshop equivalent of an old married couple. We speak in the private code of the long familiar. During class, if she says, “Tell them about that thing . . . ,” I know what thing she means. When I move my hand half an inch toward her on the tabletop, she knows it’s time to move on to the next story. And when she purses her lips and makes a noise, audible only to me, that sounds like the final flight of a disappointed mosquito, I know I’ve said something stupid. I stop talking and look at her and say, “What?”
A Tribute to Wyatt Prunty
Tony Earley is the Fleming Professor of English at Vanderbilt University. The author of five books, he lives in Nashville with his family.