CT: What led you to come to speak at Tech?
Abu-Jaber: It was almost 10 years ago now when I first met Fred D'Aguiar. I reviewed one of his books as a journalist; I enjoyed it and admired him. Years went by and he was on a search committee at the University of Miami. They ended up hiring me and I was excited to work with him, but he ended up going to Tech. We stayed in touch over the years; we are Facebook friends. I came to Tech about five years ago and had a great time; I loved the school. He invited me back again this year. Fred knew that “Birds of Paradise” was coming out, so he called me back to invite me again.
CT: What do you plan to speak about?
Abu-Jaber: I know that I am meeting with a class and for that I am going to talk about literary craft; voice, dialogue and story-telling. I am going to be reading from “Birds of Paradise,” talking about the Miami experience and the importance of setting. Miami is such a big part of this book; it is almost like a character. I am most excited to get questions and see what people are thinking. That is the most interesting part.
CT: What has been your most exciting experience as a writer thus far?
Abu-Jaber: There was a huge book party my friends threw for me when “Crescent” came out; they rented out the Heathman Hotel and Restaurant, in Portland, Oregon and invited about 300 people. They made it into this monster party. It was a beautiful bode of confidence for me. It was early in my career, it felt like a sending off for me.
CT: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Abu-Jaber: It is hard breaking into writing, but one of the best things you can do is to keep your head in your work. Don’t think so much about what other writers are doing or what you should be doing, but just do it — write every day. Write, write, write. That is the best thing I know to do.