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Antonia Novello

Former Surgeon General of the United States

I was one of those children who were sick when they were born. So, all my life, I spent two weeks every summer in the hospital. So, the people that I learned to relate to since I was little were doctors and nurses, always assuming that they were there doing things in my mind. I always felt I was going to be a doctor. I didn't know when, but I knew that was the only thing that I really had role models on a constant basis.
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Sir Trevor Nunn

Theatrical Director

There was a brown volume and I pulled it down and it was the works of William Shakespeare. And my response to it was, "I want to find a speech that I can read out to everybody." Not, "I want to take this book off into a corner and I want to discover about a whole play, and I want to read it privately to myself." And so, with a strange precocity, I would stand in the corner of the room and I would deliver Shakespeare's speeches, with no sense whatsoever of the context, or of the role that I was playing. I mean, I would gradually begin to put two and two together with these speeches, and begin to understand what must be going on in the play. I still have that volume, because my aunt gave it to me when I was going off to university. That's a very treasured possession. But, I just have to be grateful for whatever gift was handed on to me. In terms of performing, yes of course, I used to feel nerves. I used to feel adrenaline, but I also used to feel a huge magnetism. I really want to do this. I would be terribly disappointed if anything would get in the way of my being cast in something, or performances being canceled. It was a fix that I obviously needed.
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Sir Trevor Nunn

Theatrical Director

I have been through experiences with given productions, where I felt to an acute degree, "I can't do this." or "I can't do this, anymore. Whatever judgment I had it's gone." It's a hard lesson to learn, too. You would think, as you do plays, or works for television, works on film, that you pick up where you left off. You assume that you have learned all the lessons of your last outing and then you pick up right where you left off, and the truth is you don't. You pick up somewhere in the midst of an unknown project and you flounder often the same way. You repeat mistakes that you've made before. You say to yourself, "I don't believe that. I made that mistake 10 years ago, how have I done that again? And how did I not see I was doing that again?" So, yes. All of those things have happened to me. And equally, I've experienced the opposite. I've experienced a private doubt, something that I've kept deeply inside and then eventually delivered a piece of work that people responded to with huge enthusiasm. And then, that's been sort of a launch pad for a very good period, you know. "I do know what I'm doing. I do trust my ideas. That odd dream that I had two nights ago, I'm going to go with that. This imagery in there, I think I know what that's about, and I'm going to go with that. And I'm going to apply that to this play." You know, there's a lot of potentially hubristic activity in directing, following a random idea and trusting to it. But then of course, the pendulum can swing too far the other way, and you continue to trust your craziest of ideas and you come crashing down.
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Joyce Carol Oates

National Book Award

I did a lot of work around the house and around the farm. I remember cutting the lawn -- not with a power mower, but with a hand mower -- when I was fairly young. So, it wasn't that I was a free spirit. I was not a free spirit. I fit in with the household in the way that people do in farm communities. Everybody's working, basically. But I think I had my own private imagination as we all do. And I just found a way to have a private space in my own imagination somehow.
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Joyce Carol Oates

National Book Award

Joyce Carol Oates: The steps from an idea, which is very inchoate, to a finished product are really incalculable, and it can involve years. To write a novel, so many elements come together. It's like tributaries making their way into a river. You see the river, and it looks like it's a coherent whole but, in fact, it's made up of numberless -- perhaps thousands -- of small tributaries. And it's hard even to talk about this phenomenon. It's a sort of rushing current.
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Joyce Carol Oates

National Book Award

If I had an idea, the idea would not be sufficient. It has to be bolstered by something from the unconscious, some kind of sympathy or connection, some sense of drama that's like a spark of identification. I wanted to write a novel, for instance, about a man who had been falsely accused of a crime and maybe went to prison. And his own children exonerated him, and they set out to redeem him. And that must have been an idea that was in my mind for years. But as I'm working on the novel now, and it's so different. I remember the genesis, and I couldn't be writing it without that genesis. But it's completely different now. And I don't understand these mysterious processes.
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