Author Bliss Broyard, '88, says that her years as an English major at UVM marked the beginning of her formal training as a writer, despite the fact that she grew up surrounded by books (her father is celebrated writer and New York Times literary critic Anatole Broyard). "I was not the most focused student," she admits. "My mother said I learned a lot about socializing. But I was serious about classes that I liked, mostly English."
One of those classes was with Professor David Huddle, poet and novelist, whom Broyard credits with taking her from merely writing to actually being a writer.
"He took us seriously as writers," Broyard says. "He talked a lot about the writing life, and he likened writing practice to baseball practice. He said that we had to get the foul balls — the false starts, the bad writing — out of the way. Now, having taught creative writing myself, I can appreciate his approach."
After graduating from UVM with a degree in English and a minor in anthropology, she began writing in earnest. Over the years, her short stories and essays were published in journals and anthologies like The Best American Short Stories; she has also contributed articles as a journalist to magazines like O, The Oprah Magazine. A regular paycheck came from work as a researcher and associate producer for the documentary division of MTV.
"For years, I used to write late into the night, when there was no danger of the phone ringing or emails coming in," says Broyard, who lives in New York.
But since becoming a parent, Broyard has been forced to treat writing more like a nine-to-five gig. But a deadline can still mean a night working long after her husband and child have gone to sleep.
"And then for the next few days, I slightly sleepwalk through my domestic life," Broyard says, "spacey, but exhilarated with the thrill of having finished something."