Valerie Martin lectures at Newcomb College Institute
Award-winning author Valerie Martin addressed students, faculty, alumni and visitors at the Lavin-Bernick Center Monday.
The Newcomb College Institute named Martin the 26th Zale-Kimmering writer in residence of Newcomb College Institute of Tulane University. Martin, a New Orleans native, discussed what inspired her to write and told the audience about her life as a writer. She followed the speech with a reading of one of her short stories.
Martin’s most recent novel, “The Confessions of Edward Day,” is a fictional memoir that takes place in the ’70s in New York and was picked as a New York Times notable book for 2009. She is staying at Tulane University for the week, speaking to various classes on campus. Martin will give a talk called “Reading, Writing and Historical Fiction” at 1 p.m. today.
Sophomore Katherine Hines introduced Martin at the beginning of Monday’s program. Hines works on the committee of faculty and students that chooses the Zale-Kimmerling reader every year.
“I think that the Zale-Kimmerling writing series has selected strong writers in recent years, and the fact that I’ve been able to hear Amy Hempel and Valerie Martin read has been an incredible opportunity for my own development as a writer and my development as a student,” Hines said. “I think it betters the intellectual climate on campus.”
Several faculty members attended Martin’s program, including Thomas Beller, director and professor of creative writing and English.
“I think Valerie Martin is a wonderful writer and an excellent choice for the program,” Beller said.
At Monday’s program, Martin read a short story called “Beethoven” from her book “The Unfinished Novel and Other Short Stories” to the audience. These stories involve people who are associated with the arts, including writers, actors, artists and dancers. Martin proudly uses New Orleans as the settings for a number of her stories. She said New Orleans has always been a unique city and that it produced a community that was rich for writers, drawing people of various ethnic backgrounds. Martin said that she was excited to come home to New Orleans and speak to Tulane students.
“The Newcomb College Institute emailed me, and I instantly responded, ‘Yes,’” Martin said. “I wanted to come speak to the school.”
Dana Zale Gerard, who established the Writer-in-Residence program in 1985, said that the lecture was “riveting and simply excellent.”
Gerard said that she felt obligated to start a program that would bring female speakers to Tulane to show female students that one day, they could be like the speakers.
“I felt wrong that there weren’t any women role models, such as professors and writers, giving lectures on campus,” Gerard said.
Last year, on the 25th anniversary of the Zale-Kimmering Writer-in-Residence Program, Martha Kimmerling donated to the program, allowing it to live off its endowment and to continue to flourish indefinitely.