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Carol Shields

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

When my first two novels -- even the first four novels -- were published, they were reviewed very much as "women's books," "domestic novels," as though we don't all have a domestic life. I think the secret is out, we all do. I think probably they were marginalized somewhat. Now, did I mind? Probably not a great deal. I always had a sense of where things really -- where important centers were located. I suppose I also realized this is the only kind of novel that I can write. I wrote a novel called Swann in 1987, which is very much a departure from those first four novels in every way, in form, style, in a kind of a -- with a post-modern ornamentation. I was very fearful about the reception of that novel, that some people would say, "Why doesn't she write the way she used to write?" At the same time, I had an exhilarating sense that the novel could be opened up, that it was a much more expansive, elastic form than I had previously thought, and that I could do anything with this novel. I could even have, as my final section of that novel, a film script. Now I have to say my publishers were -- they tried very hard to dissuade me from these more eccentric parts of the novel. But for some reason, and maybe this is because it was a fifth novel, I felt I could insist on doing it the way I wanted to do it. But I was frightened.
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Donna Shirley

Mars Exploration Program

Helen Keller, of course, was deaf and blind and she went deaf and blind as a result of disease, as a small child. And, her mentor came in and worked with her, and got her to be able to speak by relating back to just a few words that she knew when she was a child, like "water." And, Helen Keller went on to be, you know, a very successful person, a lecturer, a communicator. If anybody knows about taking risk and being brave, it's Helen Keller. And also, the point is, that the safer you try to be and if you cut yourself off from experiencing life and doing what you want to do because you're trying to be safe, then you're missing out.
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Alan Simpson

Statesman and Advocate

Any time that somebody would come up to me and say, "I don't think that you want to touch this issue because it will destroy you politically," I'd say "Where is it?" and then I'd get into it, and it happened in the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Senate. Anything connected with emotion, fear, guilt or racism, I wanted to play in. So I played in immigration, Clean Air Act, veterans' issues, judicial nominations. I've been through it all. And high-level nuclear waste. And it was wonderful, because I would say, "I don't want to hear you babble. I don't want to hear the BS. Everybody's entitled to their own opinion, but nobody's entitled to their own facts. And then you run out of facts and you go to emotion, fear, guilt or racism. But you ain't taking me with you, and if you want to stay and debate, I'm going to whip your ass." Which I did on more than one occasion, and got mine whipped, too.
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