Eightball: Professor Elizabeth Geoghegan Presents Her Latest Book

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“I knew from when I was six years old that I wanted to be a writer but then I had writer’s block until I was about thirty.”

                                                                                                                                                                            Elizabeth Geoghegan

The Department of English Language and Literature and the Institute for Creative Writing and Literary Translation welcomed Professor Elizabeth Geoghegan for a presentation of her latest book, Eightball, on Thursday, September 12. Published by the Santa Fe Writers Project, Eightball is a collection of eight short stories exploring issues such as love, loneliness, addiction, and loss, mostly from the perspective of various female characters. Eightball takes readers on a journey across continents from Rome to Bali to Seattle.

JCU English Professor Allison Grimaldi-Donahue, who interviewed Professor Geoghegan for the prestigious arts magazine BOMB, introduced the author. “Eightball was published on May 1st and went into its second printing in just three days,” said Professor Grimaldi-Donahue. She also mentioned that Professor Geoghegan has work forthcoming this fall in Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, The Believer, and an anthology on writing called Moving Writers.

Elizabeth Geoghegan was born in New York, grew up in the Midwest, and lives in Rome. In addition to Eightball, she is the author of Natural Disasters, and the bestselling memoir The Marco Chronicles. Her work has appeared in The Paris Review, TIME, The Best Travel Writing, El Pais, Words Without Borders, BOMB, and elsewhere. At JCU, she teaches courses including Travel Writing, Creative Nonfiction, Fiction Writing, and How to Read Like A Writer.

During the event, Professor Geoghegan read passages from three short stories, “Tree Boy,” “A Roman Story,” and “Dog Boy.” She explained that she collected the eight stories that constitute Eightball over a number of years.

Professor Geoghegan Presents Eightball, her latest book

Professor Geoghegan presents Eightball, her latest book

Professor Geoghegan, who was a protégé of the late Lucia Berlin,  talked about the influences on her writing process. She recalled how during her graduate school years she was considered a minimalist, who “peeled off her sentences to make them bare.” She admitted that living in Rome and learning Italian made her sentences more “baroque.” She gave the audience an example by reading a sentence from Eightball that was 650 words long.

Next, Professor Geoghegan elaborated on how moving abroad was the best decision for her writing. She said that the novels she most loved and returned to were often written by writers who were displaced or estranged, like Paul Bowles, Marguerite Duras, and Virginia Woolf. The “outsider-feel” that she perceived in Rome led her to write from a different perspective. Professor Geoghegan explained that when she got too comfortable in Rome, she started traveling by herself to recreate the feeling of being a foreign observer and a language outsider.

Professor Geoghegan also described the connection between writing and photography. She pointed out that her experience with photography and cinema helps her in thinking about the descriptions as images that need to be framed. She said that while writing she cares mostly about what is “left out of the frame.”

She also gave advice to aspiring young writers, saying, “if you feel that you should write, it will come to you, but you might as well get started sooner rather than later. Don’t wait as long as I did.”