In the first panel, “What we learned from Frank Conroy,” the reason for the attendance at the morning session became clear. Conroy, who passed away in 2005, was one of the most beloved faculty members of the Workshop, and as director from 1987-2005, he shaped a lot of what the Workshop has done over the past few decades. Three presenters—Charles D’Ambrosio, Curtis Sittenfeld, and Abraham Verghese—relayed their favorite tales about the man whom Sittenfeld described as “funny, candid, and unflappable.” With each speaker, the affection and appreciation for their mentor was apparent. All three shared bits of wisdom they’d gleaned from Conroy on how to read, write, teach, and live. D’Ambrosio spoke of how Conroy’s influence on him extended beyond his writing, admitting “I didn’t have a model for thinking differently about my life until I met Frank.” Verghese noted that Conroy’s class gave him as close to dogma of writing as he found anywhere else: “The writer exists as a collaborative venture between writer and reader.”
Doyle, Shawn Patrick. “Why Iowa? Because…” Rain Taxi, Fall 2011.