Dennis Vannatta is a recipient of The Porter Prize, presented annually to an Arkansas writer who has accomplished a substantial and impressive body of work that merits enhanced recognition. He has published stories in many magazines and anthologies, including Chariton Review, Boulevard, Antioch Review, and Pushcart XV. In 2016, Et Alia published The Only World You Get: Arkansas Stories, which features twelve new and previously published stories, all set in Arkansas.
Dennis lives and writes in Little Rock, where he is retired from three decades in the English Department at The University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Where do you write? Basically, I can write anywhere: sitting in the car on a parking lot, in a spare bedroom in my in-laws’ house, in a fast-food restaurant, wherever. Most of the revision, though, happens in my office before the computer. I don’t necessarily feel more creative one place rather than another.
Are there any books on your shelves that are particular inspirations for your own work? Early in my writing days, yes, of course (Hemingway, Faulkner, the usual suspects), but now, no.
You have so many student fans from your years of teaching . . . are there particular texts or authors that you really enjoyed teaching? Or were perennial student favorites? So many. Hemingway, Faulkner, Borges, Garcia Marquez, Kafka, on and on. I’ll leave it to the students to comment on how much they enjoyed them.
Do you generally write first drafts on those yellow legal pads before typing up? Or what part of your process involves yellow pads? I always hand-write first drafts, generally on yellow legal pads, but whatever blank paper is at hand works for me.
Are those the “Rascals, Andrew and William” to whom your book is dedicated in the background/on your screen saver? You know the answer to that. Of course.
What was it like to win the Porter Prize? Nice. What else can I say?
Other recipients of the Porter Prize include three women who will be featured in Et Alia's forthcoming book, Women Makers of Arkansas: Padma Viswanathan (fiction, 2017), Sandy Longhorn (poetry, 2016), and Jo McDougall (poetry, 2000), as well as well-known names like Kevin Brockmeier (fiction, 2003) and Shirley Abbott (non-fiction, 2005), among many others who have made tremendous contributions to our state's literary landscape.
Vannatta will read this Saturday, January 27, with John Vanderslice as part of the Argenta Reading Series at Argenta United Methodist Church. Order his book on Et Alia's website through Friday 1/26 with code "BOGO" to buy one, get one free.