October 11, 2013

What other charming things would you like to know about Alice Munro?


How did Alice Munro find out she won the Nobel? Her daughter woke her up at 4 AM to tell her, and the Nobel committee left her a few voicemails before the announcement.

What lovely thing did she say when reporters called to talk about it? “I knew I was in the running, yes, but I never thought I would win.”

In her words, what does winning mean? “It just seems impossible — I can’t describe it. More than I can say.”

Have other Canadian writers weighed in on the win? In the Guardian, Margaret Atwood writes, “The road to the Nobel wasn’t an easy one for Munro: the odds that a literary star would emerge from her time and place would once have been zero. She was born in 1931, and thus experienced the Depression as a child and the second world war as a teenager…. Faced with the Nobel she will be modest, she won’t get a swelled head. The rest of us, on this magnificent occasion, will just have to do that for her.”

When did she decide to become a writer? Supposedly when she was just 14.

What was the first story Munro wrote? “The Dimensions of a Shadow,” which she wrote at nineteen and published in a student literary magazine called Folio.

Who was her first editor? Chip McGrath at the New Yorker.

Who was her agent? Virginia Barber became her agent in 1976.

What was her first book? Published in 1968, the title was Dance of the Happy Shades, and it went on to win the Governor General’s Award.

Didn’t she win something else recently? She won the Man Booker Prize in 2009 for her entire body of work.

How many copies of her books have been sold? Over 1 million in the U.S.

What publications should we shame for not giving her enough support? The Vancouver Sun ran this headline in the 1960s: “Housewife Finds Time To Write Short Stories.”

How does she begin writing? She might sit and look out the window for a week, “just letting things get settled in my head.”

How might you get into her writing class? Munro says, “Don’t!

Can we visit the house she grew up in? No, it’s been replaced by a salon, but there’s a literary garden dedicated to her in North Huron.

Is it true that she started her own bookstore? Munro’s Books in Victoria just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

If I’ve never read her, what do I read first? She’s written fourteen volumes — it’s probably best to start with Open Secrets or The Lives of Girls and Women, or follow USA Today‘s list of recommendations.

When is her birthday? July 10, 1931.

When will she receive the prize? December 10, the anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, at a ceremony in Stockholm.


Kirsten Reach was an editor at Melville House.