Writer-in-residence Eidus to discuss imagining change


Janice Eidus

Aaron Krumheuer | Staff Writer

From writers to scientists, nothing new comes to life without first being imagined.

For this week’s writer-in-residence Janice Eidus, there is something noble about this. Every new act of creation is a victory over the way things were.

She will discuss this transforming nature of creativity at her Brown Bag lecture, “The Triumph of the Imagination,” at 12:15 p.m. today at the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall. She is a special guest this week, reading with both the Writers’ Center and the Jewish Literary Festival.

Eidus lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with her husband and daughter. She has published six books, and her writing has earned her a Pushcart Prize, a Redbook Prize and two O. Henry Prizes for her short fiction. Her 2008 novel, The War of the Rosens, a story of an eccentric Jewish family in the Bronx, won the 2008 Independent Publishers Award in Religion.

Anthologized in a number of books on Jewish and female identity, Eidus also co-edited It’s Only Rock and Roll: An Anthology of Rock and Roll Short Stories.

The Last Jewish Virgin is Eidus’ newest novel. It’s a vampire story for grownups, Eidus said, a humorous, contemporary coming-of-age story about a young woman studying fashion in New York City, and it is a departure from her previous, more serious novel.

Eidus said she finds the change of pace necessary.

Being a writer, teacher, mom and wife can be a difficult juggling act, she said. Often, the commonplace, day-to-day status quo becomes too much to bear. It can even feel like panic or hysteria.

But using imagination has a way of bringing calm and excitement at the same time, she said.

For Eidus, her central drive is to write and stay creative. It was the subject of her workshop, “Mindful Fiction: Writing in the Moment,” that she taught this week at the Literary Arts Center at Alumni Hall, and it is a theme she will explore in today’s lecture.

Eidus said she finds time to be creative every day. Despite the fact that she does not follow a strict schedule, she weaves writing into and between her daily obligations.

“I’ve written a number of novels, books of stories, a lot of personal essays,” Eidus said, “but each time I sit down with a blank page or a blank screen, it’s as though I’m creating anew and defying the quotidian life.”

The dancer and choreographer Twyla Tharp felt the same way; every time she wrote a dance, she had to defy everything she had done before and start fresh. For someone like Tharp, who has choreographed more than 100 dances, the creative process becomes transformative.

As some people get older and settle into their jobs and lifestyles, they may find themselves in a place they never imagined they wanted to be, Eidus said. This is because it can be easy to dismiss imagination as child’s play, especially if one is not in an overtly artistic occupation.

Writers, painters and actors all seem to have the freedom to create the world around them just as they create their work, yet the creative process should not be considered just the province of artists, Eidus said.

It is a way to enact change, personally, socially and in the wider world.

“By tapping into that imagination, you can defy and get past that status quo,” she said. “Once people can sort of see that, they can live other ways or create beautiful things or act in a creative way towards someone else. I think they become transformed by that very experience.”