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Get to Know Portland Arts & Lectures Author Lauren Groff

A limited amount of three-part subscriptions for the 2022/23 Portland Arts & Lecture Series are still available! Subscribe today to see Lauren Groff on January 18th.

Literary Arts will host Lauren Groff on January 18th as the third event of our 2022-23 season of Portland Arts & Lectures.

Lauren Groff is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels and two short story collections. Her 2021 novel Matrix, which Esquire described as “Incandescent… a radiant work of imagination and accomplishment,” was a National Book Award finalist and was selected by President Barack Obama as one of his favorite books of the year. Her works have won The Story Prize, the ABA Indies’ Choice Award, and France’s Grand Prix de l’Héroïne. Groff is a three-time finalist for the National Book Award and twice for the Kirkus Prize, and has been shortlisted for the National Book Critics Circle Prize, the Southern Book Prize, and the Los Angeles Times Prize. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute, and was named one of Granta’s Best of Young American Novelists. She lives in Gainesville, Florida with her husband and two sons.

How do someone’s surroundings affect the way they encounter the world? How do they affect the life of a writer?

Groff discusses her short fiction collection Florida, what it is like living in the sunshine state, and more in this interview with NPR.

“There’s no such thing as fiction that’s not somewhat autobiographical. Likewise, there’s no such thing as memoir that’s not fictional.”


Groff’s novel Matrix is set in medieval abbey, and offers a fictional account of the life of poet Marie de France.

Read what inspired Groff to turn to writing about a twelfth-century nunnery, and what her reading and writing process consists of, in this article from The Atlantic.

“‘Coming in the middle of the pandemic, there was something about watching the abbey transform from a place that had been decimated by sickness … by marshaling the talents of all those women… There was something in it for me that was deeply pleasurable about watching life return.'”

Growing up in Cooperstown, NY, Groff was a voracious reader who spent plenty of time in the library. Who are some of the authors she admires?

In this interview with The New York Times, Groff talks about some of her favorite reads, literary villains, and the authors she would invite to a dinner party.

“In all genres, I wait in ambush for the exact, perfect, telling detail, the thing that makes the scene or line come alive.”

Here’s a closer look at Groff and her career

Lauren Groff was born in Cooperstown, New York. She has described her childhood self as “an immense introvert,” and recalls the early pleasure of discovering new-to-her books and authors like Emily Dickinson and Jane Austen. She went on to graduate from Amherst College and earn an MFA in fiction from University of Wisconsin Madison.

It was during Groff’s time studying literature at Amherst that she decided to devote herself to writing. She initially started off as a poet before moving to fiction. To date, Groff has published six books: four novels and two story collections. Her first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, was released in 2008, and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers. A review in USA Today deemed Groff “a talent to watch and celebrate.” Templeton, the setting of her debut, was based on Cooperstown, and the book’s plot was partially drawn from the stories surrounding her hometown.

In 2009 her first story collection Delicate Edible Birds was published, followed in 2011 by the novel Arcadia, winner of the Medici Book Club Prize anda finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize. Her novel Fates and Furies (2015) was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Prize. In their cover review, the New York Times declared, “Lauren Groff is a writer of rare gifts, and Fates and Furies is an unabashedly ambitious novel that delivers–with comedy, tragedy, well-deployed erudition and unmistakable glimmers of brilliance throughout.” In 2018, she published the short story collection Florida, which was awarded the Story Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Groff has lived in Gainesville, Florida with her family for years, and she has described the state as both alien and as a catalyst for her writing.

Matrix, Groff’s most recent novel, wasan instant New York Times bestseller, one of Barack Obama’s favorite books of 2021, and a finalist for the 2021 National Book Award. Set in twelfth-century England, Matrix offers a fictional account of the life of poet Marie de France. Exiled from a life in French royal court, Marie is then sent to live out her life running a troubled monastery. Marie’s resolve and her irreverence for the mores of the time help her make the nunnery successful, despite the religious and patriarchal world. The Philadelphia Inquirer praised it as Groff’s “most daring work to date… sumptuous but brisk storytelling mines the Dark Age abbey for veins of violence, humor, empowerment, and spirituality and forges something compelling, strange, and recognizable to modern eyes.”

Groff’s work has appeared in a number of magazines, including the New Yorker, Harper’s, and The Atlantic, and in several of The Best American Short Stories anthologies. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and in 2017 she was chosen as one of the Best Young American Novelists by Granta. In April 2022, she won the Joyce Carol Oates Prize. Oates said of Groff: “Wherever her imagination leads, she writes with subtlety and force. For all that, there is an enthralling undercurrent of poetry in her prose, with sentences of beauty that reward careful attention.”

Completing her first drafts in longhand, waking up to write at five a.m. every morning, and reading 300 books per year is just part of Groff’s work schedule. The success of her books, she has said, is possible because of her writing process she has referred to as “compulsive.” When in the drafting stage, she gives herself permission to just write whatever comes to her before she transitions to revision. “You are never, never, never finished with a book,” she has said, “I don’t give my books to anyone to read until I feel as if they’re somewhat all right to be read, which means that nobody sees the first or tenth drafts before they’re done… In truth, though, no novel is finished because no novel ever written has been perfect, and that’s the way it should be.” Groff has also edited a collection of stories by author Nancy Hale, Where the Light Falls, bringing a forgotten master of the short story back into the literary conversation. Her next novel, The Vaster Wilds, set in the seventeenth-century American wilderness, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books.

“The only purpose I have as a writer, as I see it, is to try to tell the truth as much as I possibly can, in a way that’s as beautiful as I can make it. I don’t know that I can do anything on the page that other people don’t do. There’s so much din in the world already, and there are so many ways to distract ourselves. That said, I think that there’s a deep longing in human beings to connect with other human beings, to break through our own essential ​existential loneliness, and some people have been able to connect to the tone that my writing makes. I’m beyond grateful for this.”

Grub Street


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