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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 19, 2007

Hampl, keynote speaker for NonfictioNow Conference, reads Oct. 31

Iowa Writers' Workshop alumna Patricia Hampl will present a free reading at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 31, in the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City.

Listen live via the Writing University Web site at The free event will also be recorded for broadcast on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series, originating on UI radio station WSUI-AM 910.

Hour-long Iowa Public Radio "Live from Prairie Lights" productions, hosted by Julie Englander, air at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturdays, and 7 p.m. Sundays on WSUI-AM 910 in Iowa City, WOI-AM 640 in Ames, and KRNI-AM 1010 in Cedar Falls.

A faculty member at the University of Minnesota, Hampl will be a keynote speaker at the Nov. 1-3 NonfictioNow Conference hosted by the University of Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program.

Hampl's newest book is the memoir and meditation "The Florist's Daughter." A starred review in Publishers Weekly explained, "Hampl ('Blue Arabesque'; 'I Could Tell You Stories') begins her very personal memoir with one hand clutching her dying mother Mary's hand, the other composing an obituary on a yellow tablet -- an apt sendoff for an avid reader of biographies.

"As years of dutiful caretaking and a lifetime of daughterhood come to an end, Hampl reflects on her middle-class, mid-20th century middle-American stock, the kind of people who assume they're unremarkable . . . even as they go down in licks of flame. Since her Czech father, Stan, couldn't afford college during the Depression, he made a livelihood as a florist. Hampl's wary Irish mother, a library file clerk, endowed her with the traits of wordiness and archival passion.

"Like Hampl, Mary was a kind of magic realist -- a storyteller who, finding people and their actions ancillary, could haunt an empty room with description as if readying it for trouble. The memoir begins with the question of why, in spite of her black-sheep, wanderlust-hippie sensibilities, Hampl never left her hometown of St. Paul, Minn. In the end, the reason is clear. There was work to do, beyond daughterly duty. Nothing is harder to grasp than a relentlessly modest life, she writes.

"With her enchanting prose and transcendent vision, she is indeed a florist's daughter -- a purveyor of beauty -- as well as a careful, tablet-wielding investigator, ever contemplative, measured and patient in her charge."

Pat Conroy, author of "My Losing Season" and "Beach Music," wrote, "Patricia Hampl writes the best memoirs of any writer in the English language. 'The Florist's Daughter' is her third memoir and her best by far -- her first two were fabulous but she gets better with each book. But here is what I love about Patricia Hampl: Sentence for sentence she writes the best prose of any American writer, period. The rest of us cannot touch her."

Hampl first won recognition for "A Romantic Education," her memoir about her Czech heritage, which was awarded a Houghton Mifflin Literary Fellowship in 1981. A new edition, with a post-revolution afterword, appeared in 1992. She also has two collections of poetry, "Woman before an Aquarium" and "Resort and Other Poems."

In 1987 she published "Spillville," a meditation on Antonin Dvorak's summer in Iowa, with engravings by Steven Sorman. "Virgin Time," published in 1992, is a memoir about her Catholic upbringing and an inquiry into contemplative life.

Her fiction, poems, reviews, essays, and travel pieces have appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, the Paris Review, the New York Times Book Review, Ploughshares, Antaeus, Granta, the American Poetry Review, the Iowa Review, Ironwood, Ms., "Best American Short Stories," the Los Angeles Times, the Sophisticated Traveller and the Kenyon Review.

Hampl has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Bush Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts in both poetry and prose, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the Djerassi Foundation. Her last three books have been named "Notable Books" of the year by the New York Times Book Review and in 1990 she was awarded a MacArthur "genius grant" Fellowship.

She is co-editor with Carl Klaus of Sightline Books: The Iowa Series in Literary Nonfiction from the UI Press.

Learn more about the NonfictioNow Conference at

The Writers' Workshop is a graduate program in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where the Nonfiction Writing Program is a graduate program in the English Department.

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights 319-337-2681, Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell),