Alumni authors return to campus

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February 27, 2009

12:49 AM

Amanda Petrusich ’97, a pop music critic at The New York Times who has interviewed the likes of Feist, the Killers and Lou Reed, does not think her current lifestyle is very different from the one she led here at the College of William and Mary.

“Being a freelancer isn’t so different from being a college student, really — you control your own schedule, you’re constantly reading and writing, and you spend an embarrassing amount of time in sweatpants,” Petrusich said.

She and novelist Jane Kotapish ’93 will give readings from their new books tonight at 7 p.m. in Ewell Hall as a part of this year’s Hayes Writers Series.

Kotapish recently released “Salvage,” a novel describing a woman’s attempt to deal with her tumultuous pas, which received positive reviews from publications like Booklist and The Brooklyn Rail.

Petrusich’s “It Still Moves” examines Americana music starting with Delta blues and Appalachian folk and follows it through bands like Wilco and Iron and Wine.

“It’s fairly heavy on research and reporting and cultural criticism, but it’s also an incredibly personal book,” Petrusich said. “It’s as much about my own journey to figure out what this music and idea of Americana means to me as anything else.”

To those looking to secure a similar career, Petrusich advises reading, writing and listening as much as possible, in addition to learning to analyze works on a deeper level than simple description. She got her start as the co-editor-in-chief of the William and Mary Review and as a reviewer for The Flat Hat.

English professor Nancy Schoenberger knew Petrusich as a smart, serious student who had two attributes she thinks all writers need: perseverance and curiosity. Schoenberger thinks those interested in becoming journalists like Petrusich or authors of fiction can get their start at the College with creative writing courses before embarking on one of two traditional routes.

“To take that giant step from a beginning writer to a published writer depends on a number of things,” Schoenberger said. “For some students, the path goes through an M.F.A. program in creative writing or creative nonfiction writing.”

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