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Alumni Spotlight June 2011 Elizabeth Kostova, 1983 YA Winner in Writing & U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts

It goes without saying that the place and

time of your upbringing influences your tastes, preferences and outlook in life. So for Elizabeth Kostova, her interest in the Dracula legend stems from the stories her father told her while living in Eastern Europe in Ljubljana, Slovenia as a child. Although she was born in Connecticut, she "was fascinated by [her father's Dracula stories] because they were ... from history in a way, even though they weren't about real history, but I heard them in these beautiful historic places." Back in America, before attending Yale University, Elizabeth participated in YoungArts (1983) and was selected as a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Her first novel, The Historian (Little, Brown 2005) was the first novel in American publishing history to debut as a #1 bestseller, has been translated into 40 languages, and won Book Sense and Quill Awards. The book sold more copies on its first day in print than The Da Vinci Code – 70,000 copies were sold in the first week alone! Her second novel, The Swan Thieves (2010), also a bestseller, has been translated into 29 languages to date. Kostova has also published short fiction, essays, and poetry. information, please visit

We recently caught up with Elizabeth and asked her to share some insights about the YoungArts program and the life of a writer:

1) How has YoungArts prepared/affected your life? YoungArts gave me one of the first big encouragements I received as a beginning but dedicated writer. During my fellowship in Miami, I met other young writers like myself and realized for the first time that there were others like me. We worked with John Barth, who took us seriously, prodded us to talk and think, and presented us with the first technical overview of writing craft I'd ever seen. That was my also my very first experience with a writing workshop, a form that has remained important to me--in fact, I now run similar workshops annually in Bulgaria (this is a great opportunity for emerging writers, by the way; any of your readers who are interested can see the Sozopol Fiction Seminars at ww 2) What obstacles have you faced in your professional career? How did you overcome them? I've faced the obstacles most writers do: lack of time, the need for many years to work other jobs for a living, and everything else about day-to-day life that militates against the act of finding time and attention for one's art work. I was very lucky in my writing friends, my family, and other support, and in finding a wonderful MFA program eventually at the University of Michigan, and in my natural energy level and health. These things offset many obstacles, for artists. 3) Who has inspired your work? Great authors: Henry James, Charles Dickens, E. M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, Eudora Welty, and many others. Observing my own experiences and other people's. Great teachers and mentors. The natural world. Travel. Living. 4) What is the number one piece of advice you would like to give to our newest YoungArts graduates? Seek encouragement and don't listen to anything or anyone tell you that you can't do it! Work every day. Explore the world and learn about it so that you aren't always turning inward--turn outward and absorb, in other words. Soak yourself in the models of the art you most admire, from all periods of history--don't be afraid of practicing some imitation as you find your own voice.

Alumni Spotlight June 2011  
Alumni Spotlight June 2011  

Alumni Spotlight June 2011 Elizabeth Kostova