CHAUTAUQUA - Joyce Carol Oates is recognized by millions worldwide, with the exception of the two which matter most.
Her own two cats.
When asked if she considered herself a success, Ms. Oates, the author of numerous books - such as The Gravedigger's Daughter and them - poems, plays and short stories, said she didn't think she was.
However, some might think otherwise, which was evident by the large turnout of people to hear her speak at the Chautauqua Institution on Wednesday.
Roger Rosenblatt, another writer who interviewed Ms. Oates on the stage of the institution's Amphitheater, could recall when he invited the author to speak before a class he was teaching at a college. Before speaking in front of the students, Ms. Oates asked Rosenblatt how he planned on introducing her, and Rosenblatt responded by reading to her a long list of her achievements, which included many awards and other honors.
''She said don't read all of those things,'' Rosenblatt said, ''just say, 'Here's Joyce Carol Oates.'''
''I think in real life there's not much logic. When we write, we have a different type of perspective.''
Joyce Carol Oates
But, when the author moved to the front of the class after the introduction, she looked at Rosenblatt and was a little upset about the short introduction.
''Joyce gets up there and says, 'That's kind of a chintzy introduction,''' Rosenblatt joked.
When she is writing, Ms. Oates said she likes to take breaks from her work, which often includes going for a walk or run or meditating.
''I just wait around. I do a lot of meditation,'' she said, adding she can't work on rainy days because she feels restless. ''If you're walking, you can think. Think about what you're working on and it unfolds like a movie.''
The author said she always knows the endings, titles and other important details to her stories because it is easier psychologically while writing. She also said it cuts back on the amount of ''groping'' a writer must do to make sure everything connects.
''To me, the first sentence, the last sentence and the title have a relationship which are triangular,'' Ms. Oates said.
Now a professor at Princeton University, Ms. Oates said she was influenced by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
''When I was 8 years old, that was just the perfect book for me,'' Ms. Oates said.
It also helped her to see how the real world can look differently to whomever is viewing it, and she believes readers could identify with Alice because she experiences hardships and overcomes them.
''We see things both as how they are, but also in a distorted way as in a dream,'' Ms. Oates said.
Writing is also one way to break down barriers, Ms. Oates said, adding it allows the logical to become the illogical.
''I think in real life there's not much logic. When we write, we have a different type of perspective,'' she said. ''There's a different way of telling a story. We don't know what the effect of our art will be.'