Letters: Kurt Vonnegut Gives Advice To A New Teacher At The Iowa Writers’ Workshop

In 1967, Kurt Vonnegut corresponded with magazine writer and novelist Richard Gehman, who was about to head off to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop to accept a teaching position. Vonnegut was able to give a lot of advice as he held the same position from 1965 to 1967. the letter appears from the assembly of letters that were recently published in a book entitled Kurt Vonnegut: Letters.

Some of the advice that Vonnegut gave:

“Use the Cedar Rapids airport instead of the Iowa City airport! Fly United instead of Ozarks!”

“Forget your lack of credentials! The University is perfectly used to barbarians in the Workshop.”

“Vance [Bourjaily] is a poor teacher.”

“Run with the painters. I did. The best guy in Iowa City is painter Byron Burford.”

Vonnegut also had some sage advice for Gehman on the dating scene. Gehman married multiple times in his life, but at the time was single.

Vonnegut told him:

“Don’t ball undergraduates! Their parents are still watching!”

Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007 without ever having penned an autobiography. The legendary author did write a lot of letters which gave an insight into how he thought.

Kurt Vonnegut was a 20th-century American writer.His works such as Cat’s Cradle (1963), Slaughterhouse-Five (1969), and Breakfast of Champions (1973) blend satire, gallows humor, and science fiction. As a citizen he was a lifelong supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union and a critical leftist intellectual. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.

See the full letter below.

Kurt Vonnegut