Small town produces award-winning author

Writer David Jauss has written about life as an elderly nun, a war veteran, a foster child, a 16th century priest, a serial killer, a Russian dwarf, a disaffected teen, and a pitcher from the Dominican Republic. These are just some of the many characters he has created in his short stories and poems. 

Jauss grew up in a small town in Minnesota. Even as a child, he enjoyed writing. His mother once gave him a diary as a present and he filled it within a week. He recalls that his favorite school assignment was using the 25 new vocabulary words in an original story each week. But in his mind, becoming a writer seemed unattainable since no “real” writers came from rural Minnesota. Instead, he aspired to become a high school English teacher and baseball coach. 

It wasn’t until he was in college that a professor noted his talent and told him that he should enter a graduate MFA creative writing program. Jauss followed that recommendation. After graduating from Southwest Minnesota State College, he continued his education at Syracuse University and the University of Iowa. 

After obtaining his degrees, Jauss, his wife and two children, moved to Little Rock in 1980 where he took a position at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock teaching creative writing and literature. There he remained, working with a diverse group of students until his retirement in 2014. 

During his 34 years of teaching, he was able to expand his own creative pursuits. Of his many publications, he feels his last two books of short stories may be the most gratifying since they are a culmination of his life’s work. They are titled “Glossolalia: New and Selected Stories” and “Nice People: New and Selected Stories II.” 

Generally, his stories start with a detail or situation that he finds intriguing, then he continues to explore what makes people do what they do. As he writes, his stories may wend in unexpected directions. As a reviewer said, “Though human frailty darkens many of these tales, each shines with the multi-faceted complexity of real life.” 

Both books have received high acclaim and many of the previously published stories have garnered literary notice, including: A Best American Short Stories award, the O. Henry Prize, two Pushcart Prizes and many more. Contemporary writers, including Wally Lamb and Andre Dubus III, have praised his talent. 

His other works include “Black Maps” and “Crimes of Passio” and two books of poems, “You Are Not Here” and “Improvising Rivers.” His fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in an impressive list of magazines and anthologies and he has been an editor and served on editorial boards. 

He has also published books about the craft of writing. They include “On Writing Fiction” and “Words Overflown by Stars: Creative Writing Instruction” and “Insight from the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program.” He continues to work in this acclaimed low-residency MFA in Writing Program, where he has taught since 1998. This model program has spawned over 75 other programs of this type, in which students work one-on-one with a mentor online and through email for most of the year then come together at the college for two weeks of intensive in-person instruction twice a year. 

Jauss has demonstrated that “real” writers can come from small, rural towns. Although he did not coach baseball, he instead coached hundreds of students on the craft of creative writing. And when speaking about former students who have achieved their own successes, he assumes the tone of a proud parent. 

Jauss and his wife Judy continue to live in Little Rock with their two dogs. He is putting finishing touches on another book of essays about writing fiction. A full list of his publications and other accomplishments appears at DavidJauss.com. 

His books may be purchased from Amazon and other online vendors as well as in local bookstores.

Susan Peterson
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