McFarlin Fellows Dinner: An Evening with Dame Antonia Byatt

The University of Tulsa was graced with the presence of English novelist, poet, and Booker Prize winner Dame Antonia Byatt on the evening of February 21st, at this year’s first Fellows Dinner. Dame Antonia, who writes under the nom de plume A.S. Byatt, delighted those in attendance with insights into her creative process, particularly regarding her most recent novel, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods.

The evening began with a reception in McFarlin Library’s Ann and Jack Graves Faculty Study, where attendees were able to meet Dame Antonia in a casual setting. Following the reception, the crowd made its way to the Pat and Arnold Brown Reading Room for dinner, where R. M. and Ida McFarlin Dean of the Library Adrian Alexander formally welcomed those in attendance. Following the welcoming remarks, Dean Alexander introduced the guest speaker.

Dame Antonia spoke about her creative process, which differs from other writers in the sense that she does not subscribe to the adage “write what you know,” preferring to absorb knowledge as the process develops. Her work, commented Dame Antonia, is heavily influenced by music and art, which seep into her pages, coloring her words and adding an atmosphere of musicality to her novels. Interestingly, Dame Antonia also remarked that during her writing she never crosses out or erases anything, because she finds that she always revisits her ideas, which provides new perspectives.

After her lecture, Dame Antonia took part in a short Q&A session where she was asked about different aspects of her writing processes. When asked by this writer about when should an author withdraw from a work in progress and consider it done, she explained that, in her case, the novel tells her when it is finished. Dame Antonia describes it as an organic feeling of completeness and interconnectedness within the book.

The staff of McFarlin Library’s Department of Special Collections and University Archives would like to express our gratitude to Dame Antonia for honoring us with her presence. Her insights into her creative process will surely prove invaluable to those following her footsteps.

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