Tony Ardizzone

Writer • Teacher • Editor

 

The Habit of Art


“The scientist has the habit of science; the artist, the habit of art.” —Flannery O’Connor

This collection of stories contains some of the best new short fiction from America. The stories display a wide range of styles, settings, and themes. In addition to being among the country’s most talented, prize-winning writers, the authors gathered in The Habit of Art also share a common bond as former members of the fiction workshop at Indiana University, which celebrates its first 25 years with the publication of this book.
--- Indiana University Press jacket copy

"Flannery O'Connor had grown weary of the questions she continued to field from aspiring fiction writers: Should I use a pencil, a pen or a typewriter? Is morning or evening the best time to write? When writing, should I sip coffee or tea? As O'Connor noted, the serious writer isn't as concerned with external habits, such as writing schedules and daily routines, as he or she is with the internal process of writing—or what she referred to as the 'habit of art.' The habit of art, she explained in her essay 'The Nature and Aim of Fiction,' concerns a 'certain quality or virtue of the mind,' which combined with a writer's talent, could heighten writing to a point nearing perfection.

"For the past twenty-five years, the graduate creative writing program at Indiana University Bloomington has aspired to instill in each of its writers a lifetime habit of art. Evidence of the program's success is on display in a new 25th anniversary anthology of short stories written by its graduates, The Habit of Art: Best Stories from the Indiana University Fiction Workshop.

"'It seems to me that the true purpose of a creative writing program is not so much to focus on a product the students would create, but rather to nurture and instill in them an ongoing process of being a writer,' said Tony Ardizzone, former director of the Creative Writing Program, who edited and wrote the introduction to the anthology. 'We want to develop in each of our students a habit of writing. This is very important. If there's too much focus on the product, writers tend to become results-oriented.'

"'The ‘habit of art’ also reflects my own philosophy of teaching,' Ardizzone added. 'While I'm concerned with the techniques my students are learning, I'm ultimately concerned with the process of their becoming a writer and the ways I can nurture and help instill that process.'

"Ardizzone, the author of seven books of fiction and winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, said he hopes creative writing instructors find the anthology to be a viable teaching tool and of interest to readers of contemporary fiction. The collection of stories, published by Indiana University Press, showcases the writing talents of twenty-one of the nation's most talented, prize-winning authors. The stories represent a variety of narrative perspectives, including works written by first-, second- and third-person narrators. The collection also displays a wide range of subject matter, styles, settings and themes, as well as a highly diverse array of characters.

"The last point mirrors one of the distinguishing characteristics of the graduate creative writing program: more than a third of its students and faculty are writers of color, making it the most successfully diversified creative writing programs in the nation.

“'This work is designed to be approachable and stimulating and to make for good discussion. It will also be of real interest to readers of literary fiction. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to showcase these writers nationally,' Ardizzone said. Several of the stories included in the anthology have received additional national awards and citations, among them inclusion in The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, Scribner's Best of the Fiction Workshops and The Year's Best: New Stories from the South.

"Ardizzone chose stories for the anthology from works written by more than seventy graduates of the creative writing program, which boasts a long and illustrious history. 'The reputation of our program has grown during a time of greater national competition among programs. We've succeeded because of the strength of our faculty and because we have a long, historic commitment to diversity initiatives,” Ardizzone said. “Our graduates are really the best ambassadors of our program. They're the proof of what we do and evidence that we do a really fine job.' The contributors to the anthology range from critical favorites, such as Brian Leung, winner of the 2005 Asian American Literary Award for World Famous Love Acts; Dana Johnson, winner of the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction for her collection of stories Break Any Woman Down; and Renée Manfredi, whose first novel Above the Thunder earned her widespread acclaim, to first-time published authors Seamus Boshell and Crystal S. Thomas.

"Publication of the anthology was made possible by the support of the Indiana University Bloomington Creative Writing Program, the Department of English, Indiana University Press, the College of Arts and Humanities Institute, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Ardizzone has declined all payments and royalties from the sale of the book. He said, 'I'm pleased to be among such a distinguished company of writers. That's my reward.'"
     -- Ryan Piurek, Indiana University Office of Media Relations

"The authors brazenly embrace intimacy and repulsion with alluring ease. Daring is the best description of the collection; engaging is the best reason for them to be read and shared."
     -- NUVO Indianapolis