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06/29/94

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Author Elizabeth Tallent to head Stanford's Creative Writing Program

STANFORD -- Novelist and short story writer Elizabeth Tallent has been appointed director of Stanford University's Creative Writing Program, effective Sept. 1.

Tallent succeeds English Professor John L'Heureux, who directed the program for the past year. He will return to teaching full time.

Since 1989, Tallent has been a member of the English department faculty at the University of California-Davis, where she taught creative writing as well as lecture classes in poetry and the short story. At Stanford, she will be professor of English and Lane Professor in the Humanities.

After an eight-month search, which produced 110 candidates from almost every state, as well as from Canada, England and Ireland, Tallent was selected to direct the Stanford program. "In addition to being a fine writer and a superb teacher," L'Heureux said, "Tallent brings to the director's job a great interest in and enthusiasm for administration, which is most unusual."

In a brief telephone interview, Tallent said she is looking forward to working with the gifted writers in Stanford's program. She praised the "democracy of support" that Stanford offers the writers in its all- fellowship program. "I think the program is the best in the country and I want to keep it that way," she said.

Tallent added that her 6-year-old son, Gabriel, is also looking forward to coming to Stanford, although, she said, "I think it's rather mythical to him right now."

Tallent's reputation is based, significantly, on her mastery of the short story, said L'Heureux. "Like Raymond Carver and Grace Paley before her, Tallent from the start of her career gave every evidence of being a first-rate short story writer, but a story writer only. So it was a surprise to many critics when, shortly after the publication (in 1983) of her stunning first book of stories, In Constant Flight, she brought out her novel, Museum Pieces."

Since then, Tallent has published two other collections of stories, Time with Children (1987) and, in late 1993, Honey. She is currently at work on a novel set in the Pacific Northwest among ecologists and foresters.

Her work has regularly won critical praise. Reviewing Honey in the Los Angeles Times, Richard Eder, a Pulitzer Prize winner for criticism, wrote that "Tallent is one of our most penetrating and perceptive specialists in the domestic emotions. The tenderness and the frequent redeeming note that comes at the end of these stories seem like a gamble until you realize that they are not arbitrary, that she has made a kind of miracle in the redemption."

Tallent, 39, earned her bachelor's degree with honors in anthropology from Illinois State University. She then headed for Albuquerque, N.M., where she planned to do graduate work in archaeology. Instead, she ended up in Santa Fe and began writing. "Ice," which appeared in The New Yorker in 1980, was included in the Best American Short Stories of that year and became the first story in Tallent's collection In Constant Flight.

The Stanford Creative Writing Program was founded in 1946 by English Professor Wallace Stegner. In 1990, the program became an all-fellowship program. Ten fellows in fiction and 10 in poetry receive two-year fellowships providing tuition costs and a living stipend of $13,000 annually.

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