Jane Smiley


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Talk to Jane Smiley–University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop alum, former professor at Iowa State, Pulitzer Prize winner–and you may well hear about animals. First and foremost: horses.

In this On the Fly interview, recorded in late 2010, Smiley explains why she enjoys riding horses and also talks about her “Horses of Oak Valley Ranch” series for middle grade readers.

She also shares her thoughts about what it takes to be a novelist, tossing in a couple of metaphorical animals to make her point: “I think being a novelist is really a learning process because nobody has all the innate gifts of writing novels…Every novelist has something that they have to learn in order to become a novelist, which means that every novelist is more of a tortoise than a hare.”

Smiley won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1991 novel A Thousand Acres. In addition to her many novels, the most recent of which is 2014’s Some Luck, Smiley has written several nonfiction works, including Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel and a biography of Charles Dickens, about whom she reflects in this interview.