Internationally Acclaimed Author and Iowa Writers’ Workshop Alumnus TC Boyle Returns to Iowa City


One of the most prolific graduates of the Iowa Writers Workshop will visit on May 5. Boyle always writes well-received content — his most recent book, “Talk to Me,” takes place at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.


Thomas Coraghessan Boyle was a student at the Writers’ Workshop in Iowa in 1974 when he discovered that humans were trying to teach monkeys sign language. This led him to question the human-imposed social order that encloses Homo sapiens in the first echelon, and more specifically to play with the concept of apes developing their own language.

This led him to write the short story Descendant of man in 1979, and more recently his book Talk to me, release in May 2021. On May 5, at 7:30 p.m., he will return to Iowa City to give a talk at the Englert Theater, where he will discuss his latest work and his experience as a successful author.

Boyle, often known by the pen name TC Boyle, said that when he started out as an author, absurd works – especially those with a good sense of humor – inspired him.

“Samuel Beckett, and short stories from people like Donald Bartholomae and Robert Coover, they had a really wild sense of humor that appealed to me, and it was kind of surreal and that was how my brain worked,” Boyle said.

Many writers, Boyle joked, “know they want to be writers from the womb.” For him, however, it was not such a clear path. Boyle first fell in love with music, particularly the saxophone, as well as the fine arts. It was always clear to Boyle that he enjoyed the arts but didn’t enjoy writing until college.

During his second year of college at the State University of New York in Potsdam, he discovered his love for writing. He explained that he first went to SUNY Potsdam for history, however, after taking an English course and reading the works of Flannery O’Connor, he decided to double major.

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Boyle explained that he challenges himself to do something different with each story. His style, he says, “is him” – that’s all that consumes him at the time.

“I just wanted to do art because it’s so exciting to me. I’ve never found the end of it yet,” Boyle said. “Every story I write comes out of nowhere. I don’t know what it’s going to be, it’s just starting and I’m it.

Boyle hasn’t forgotten his background as a musician either. He explained that whether he’s reading, writing, or working on something else, he always listens to music. He both needed and cherished background noise and found that classical music and jazz helped him in his songwriting.

Additionally, Boyle, who has been writing for nearly 50 years, believes that books about the craft of writing are, “to put it mildly, unnecessary.” He explained that, like a writer’s job, a writer’s process is completely individualistic and not particularly transferable.

It’s for this reason that Boyle believes that writers’ craft books can be interesting insights into a specific writer’s style, but cannot function as a guide to universal writing rules.

“Any book, even if it’s by your favorite author and hero or heroine, about writing is completely useless, completely,” Boyle said. “That’s how your favorite writer does his job. Okay, great, but it really has nothing to do with you.

Boyle currently resides in Santa Barbara, California, which allows him to immerse himself in nature. When he’s not writing, Boyle enjoys hiking, kayaking and going to the beach. For him, it’s important to stay stimulated, and said it’s important to spend time writing and living.

“I only write for a certain period of time, and when it’s done for the day, I’m doing something else and not consciously thinking about it,” Boyle said. “Although I think, my subconscious is probably working on the issues of the narrative that I’m doing.”

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