Art Works Blog

Congratulations to Our Big Read Grantees

Washington, DC

"Read" by flickr user markhillary

The 2011-2012 Big Read grantees were announced this morning, which means it's time to start gearing up for our sixth season of the program. As always, we look forward to seeing how our 76 grant recipients will use creative new ways to engage their communities with their selected books.

In anticipation of September, when the next grant cycle begins, we thought we?d take a look at some of our most important Big Read participants: the authors themselves. Below are some of our favorite author quotes and stories, collected from podcasts and interviews conducted by the NEA.

Amy Tan, on writing:

?The great discovery is that if you write something from your heart, even though it's fictional, it provides that meaning that we all want.

Ray Bradbury?s biographer, Sam Weller, on Bradbury?s cluttered study:


?I like to call it his laboratory of his imagination. I mean his basement office is just a wreck of ideas, toy rocket ships, rubber Godzillas, symbols that he would look at, metaphors he would tell you that ignite his imagination?he could look at them. Symbols from his past, nostalgic remnants. His father's hat, his old Stetson hat, hangs above his desk. Masks he'd collected in Mexico while on a trip there in the 1940s, gifts he'd received from fans. Every letter he's ever been sent from fans are kept down there and you can go through. And I found a letter I wrote to him as a child down there in a book.?

Julia Alvarez, on reading and understanding:

"I think that the muscles that you're stretching when you're reading are the same muscles you use for compassion and understanding. It develops that capacity, you know, to be compassionate, to understand, and to see and to be, you know, a fuller human being."

Thom Steinbeck, on how his father, John Steinbeck, slyly encouraged him to read:

?Actually, [my father] once bought this low-boy cabinet. And locked all the books he wanted us to read in it. Twain, Coleridge, I mean, everybody was in there that he thought that young people should read. Then every night he'd lock this thing. And it made an incredible noise. He'd stand on the chair and he was tall and he'd put the key on top. And my father said, 'Some of the books in there have got secrets in there that I don't think that you should know.' My brother and I would sneak down these squeaky stairs. We lived on the fourth floor, his bedroom was on the third. I'd get my brother on my shoulders, he'd get the key and I'd come sneak down and put the pillow over the locks so we could take it out and got our flashlights going, you know. So we got very little sleep for the longest period of time. Years later, he said, 'you know, son, if you'd oiled that lock on that damned door, a lot of us would have gotten a lot more sleep.'"

Harper Lee biographer Charles Shields, on the near loss of To Kill a Mockingbird:

?So for two and half years, living almost entirely on her advance alone, she worked on this novel. At one point, she got so fed up that she got up from her desk, went over to the window, and threw it out in the snow, the entire manuscript. She called her editor, Tay Hohoff, at Lippincott and told her what she'd done and Tay told her to march out and get it all back.?

Please visit The Big Read website for more information about the program.


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