Gloversville native Richard Russo, the March 16 Rosamond Gifford lecture Series speaker, attributes the bulk of his writing success to three things: "Having a voracious reader, a "BSer" and an artist in my family."
The voracious reader was his mother, who instilled in him the reading habit and a love for it by taking him along on her frequent trips to the Gloversville public library. The BSer was his father. "He was a story teller, but the stories always turned out differently. He didn't seem to remember, or care, that I was always there to hear the different versions. It didn't really matter to either of us -- they were good stories every time."
The artist was his grandfather, a glove cutter. "The goal of cutting gloves was to get as many as possible from a piece of leather. The tricky part was that the leather would have imperfections that needed to be hidden. The artistry was in doing that. He would cut the leather so that imperfections would be hidden between the fingers or in seams. It was 25 or thirty years before I would ever put pen to paper seriously, but his example stuck with me -- using your artistry to hide the imperfections."
Known for infusing humor into his work, Russo writes about blue collar life and "Main Street USA." He says of his writing that "I am a professional liar. I tell stories. I make things up." He is the author of Empire Falls (winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize), Straight Man, and Nobody's Fool.
He received his BA in English at the University of Arizona along with his Ph.D. in American Literature in 1980. He also earned a master of fine arts degree in creative writing in 1981. In addition to being a novelist he was a former fiction instructor and professor of creative writing at Southern Illinois University and Colby College. Now retired from teaching, he says that he misses the students, but that while "There is still much to be said about writing, it just doesn't need to be said by me."