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Nonfiction from two points of view

BY JOSIE JONES | FEBRUARY 25, 2010 7:30 AM

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Honor Moore is no prima donna. She is excited to work with new talent.

“I’m very interested in a series that combines faculty and student reading,” said the Bedell Visiting Writer in Nonfiction. “I think it’s a very important kind of event to have because it allows the younger writer to be in context of a more established writer. And it brings each writer’s audience to the other writer.”

Moore and Jennifer Percy will read together at the Museum of Art’s Word Painters Reading at 7:30 p.m. today. The event, in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber, is free and open to the public.

The Word Painters Reading, created in the fall of 2006, pairs a faculty member with a person in the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, each reading from her or his recent works.

Typically, the student reads first, followed by the faculty member. Dale Fisher, a coordinator in the School of Art and Art History, said the reading is an honor given to students in the program.

“The idea [behind the reading] was to collaborate between UI departments,” Fisher said. “And try to integrate the arts within the university community.”

Percy’s essay “Even in English, a Language Gap” was published in the New York Times column “Modern Love” in December. Moore will read from her most recent memoir, The Bishop’s Daughter.

The “novelistic nonfiction narrative,” as she characterized the book, is about the difficult relationship she had with her father.

“A book like that you write all your life,” she said.

The Bishop’s Daughter contains a chapter of writing she wrote while in college.

Described by critics as absorbing and engrossing, Moore intended for the The Bishop’s Daughter to “take you and pull you along.” She tends to use imagery to tell the story and likes to use scenes to convey characters and information.

“In nonfiction, you don’t make anything up,” she said. “But there is an active imagination where you have to decide what the book is going to be like.”

Moore, who usually resides in New York, enjoys writing in places where she feels safe, such as the MacDowell Writers’ Colony or in the library. She believes writers need to spend a lot of time alone, have a lot of patience, and be able to shut out negative voices.

“For people who are writers, it’s like a metabolism,” she said while eating a Cobb salad at the Bluebird Diner. “It’s a thing you do to stay alive — transform your experience into literature.”

After beginning her book in 2003, it took her three years to write The Bishop’s Daughter. She plans to read a longer passage at the event in effort to demonstrate how she put the book together as a writer.

While being excited to read from her memoir, having the opportunity to read in the Word Painters Reading is something she is most looking forward to.

“It’s wonderful to be here in the nonfiction program and participate in a series that’s specifically established by it,” Moore said.


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