School of Arts and Humanities News

Creative Writing Prof. Details Career as Author


Dr. Clay Reynolds, known for his depictions of small-town Texas life, is the director of creative writing at UT Dallas.

Dr. Clay Reynolds, known for his depictions of small-town Texas life, is the director of creative writing at UT Dallas.

Dr. Clay Reynolds, director of creative writing at UT Dallas, sat down recently with Lone Star Literary Life to discuss his career as an award-winning author.

Reynolds, who is described as “a key figure on the Texas literary scene,” has been publishing written work since 1976, but said he became a novelist by accident.

“My wife worked evening shifts, and we had two small children in diapers at home,” he said in the interview. “Reading or really doing much of anything else was nearly impossible during the evening hours, as I had to remain awake and alert for the children. I could, however, sit and type.”

Reynolds found success finding a publisher quickly. He published his first two novels — The Vigil and Agatite — in 1986.

He also touched on his life growing up in Quanah, Texas and its impact on his writing.

“I have written a lot about that place, in my imagination, but it exists more in my imagination than in my memory,” he said. “Agatite, the name of my fictional small town that is setting for several of my books, is like Quanah, but it’s not Quanah… I do think I draw a lot about my sense of people from that experience, and also my sense of history. It was Texas in a microcosm, generally a full demographic representative of the state’s population at that time.”

Reynolds, who has been teaching college courses for 42 years, said new writers should educate themselves, not just in writing, but in all fields.

“Don’t write to offend or outrage, or to preach; but don’t worry about writing something that is diluted or masked by civility and political sensitivity,” he said. “Be direct, be honest, be accurate and unvarnished. In sum, write what you know, not about facts and experience you’ve actually had, but rather about the emotional depths you’ve been to and felt.”

Reynolds is author of more than 1,000 published works, including 20 books, authored and edited. He has won the Violet Crown Award for the Best Texas Novel twice, and his novel Franklin’s Crossing was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. He has also been named runner-up three times in the Western Writers of America Spur Award for the novel and short fiction, and finalist for prizes from PEN Texas and several national writing organizations.

Reynolds is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters, has received grants from the Texas Commission for the Arts, and is also a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow.

You can read the entire Q&A here.