Sam Shepard Has Died, Age Discrimination Complaint at Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and More


Every day Poets & Writers Magazine scans the headlines—from publishing reports to academic announcements to literary dispatches—for all the news that creative writers need to know. Here are today’s stories:

Playwright, director, and actor Sam Shepard died last Thursday at age seventy-three of complications from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Shepard wrote forty-four plays, including 1979’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Buried Child, as well as several memoirs and story and essay collections. Shepard also directed and acted in numerous movies and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1983 film The Right Stuff. (New York Times, Broadway World)

Dan Thomson, a sixty-eight-year-old Wisconsin man who was rejected by the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, arguing that the highly lauded MFA program discriminates based on age. Workshop officials have stated that all applicants are evaluated on the quality of their writing sample, not their age. The university’s office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity provided Thomson with data, however, that shows that in the past five years nearly half of the accepted students were between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five, and the program accepted no students over the age of fifty. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)

Phyllis Richardson takes a look at the real houses that inspired some of British literature’s most famous fictional homes, from Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre to the cottage in Howards End to Manderley in Rebecca. (Guardian)

Judith Thurman profiles British writer Rachel Cusk, and explores how the author is reinventing the novel with “her power to dazzle and to condemn.” (New Yorker)

A psychology study suggests that people engage more fully with music and poetry when informed of the artist’s mood or intent when creating the piece. The study also showed participants preferred music when they heard it as happy and poetry when they heard it as sad. (Psychology Today)

Journalist Beenish Ahmed has launched a new book subscription service, the Alignist Box, which sends subscribers a novel every other month, along with recipes, illustrations, artisanal goods, and information about the communities represented in the novel. “It’s a way to reach people where they are and not only inform them about places they may never visit, but give them a reason to care about them,” says Ahmed. (Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls)

Becky Anderson, the co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshops in Naperville, Illinois, and a city councilwoman, has announced that she will run for Congress in Illinois’s sixth congressional district; the current representative for the district is Peter Roskam. (Chicago Tribune)