Mary Tutwiler

UL's Ducornet honored by American Academy of Arts and Letters

by Mary Tutwiler

Rikki Ducornet, UL Writer in Residence has just been chosen as a recipient of the Academy Awards in Literature, given by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The American Academy of Arts and Letters is an honor society of 250 architects, composers, artists, and writers. The honor of election is considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States. Every year, the Academy recognizes artists with monetary awards designed to foster and sustain interest in literature, music and the fine arts. Ducornet was one of eight recipients of a $7500 award for her creative work.

“I’m astonished and delighted,” Ducornet says. “It’s such a lonely job to write books. I write books that are very strange. To have anyone respond to them is delightful.” Ducornet says she had no idea the Academy was considering her. The Academy was founded in 1898, with a distinguished membership which included William Dean Howells and Mark Twain. There has been an unbroken chain of artists as members ever since. This year, writers Robert A. Caro and Calvin Trillin join the ranks.

Ducornet is the author of seven novels including The Fan Maker’s Inquisition and The Jade Cabinet. She was also the inspiration for the Steely Dan hit “Rikki don’t lose that number.” She says she was a young faculty wife at Bard College where Donald Fagan was a student. The band was already performing, she was a fan, and “one day, Donald gave me his number. Nothing happened,” she adds. She left the country with her husband and 10 years later walked into a record shop and found her name on the Pretzel Logic album. Ducornet is listed in this month’s More Magazine in an article titled “I was the girl in the song.”