Button Menu

Lili Wright came to DePauw’s English department in 1999 with an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing
from Columbia University and a B.A. in French literature from Brown University. She brought
significant experience in journalism, having written for The Salt Lake Tribune, The Chicago
Tribune, New York Post, The Kansas City Star, and The Baltimore Sun, as well as Good Morning
America. Soon after, in 2002, Broadway Books published what Booklist called her “daring,”
reflective,” and “endearing” travel memoir Learning to Float, which was named a summer read
pick by The Washington Post. At DePauw, Lili advised the university’s award-winning
newspaper The DePauw for a number of years, while teaching Introduction to Creative Writing,
Creative Nonfiction, News Writing and Editing, Advanced Reporting, and Senior Seminar. Along
with Professor Peter Graham, she went on to lead nine ever-popular winter term trips to
Sundance Film Festival, and later, taught an Italian Film course in Arezzo, Italy. She was named
the Richard W. Peck Professor in Creative Writing in 2008. Students found Lili authentic,
dedicated, and knowledgeable, and her successes in the wider world of publishing provided
them a constant source of inspiration. (Since 2009, Lili has also taught nonfiction writing
workshops at Butler University’s M.F.A. program.)

Lili’s writing career blossomed during her 20 years at DePauw. She published news stories,
comic essays, and her bi-monthly “Work” column for Indianapolis Monthly, and nonfiction
essays in publications including Good Housekeeping, The New York Times, The Cincinnati
Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Southern Indiana Review, and The Florida Review. In 2016,
Putnam & Sons published her ambitious debut novel Dancing with the Tiger, which Lili
researched during a sabbatical in Mexico. The New York Times called it “refreshing,”
“powerful,” “shot through with golden threads of striking images,” a “chorus of the many
voices of Oaxaca.” The novel was optioned for a feature film, won the 2017 Housatonic Book
Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the 2017 Edgar Award for “Best First Novel.” In 2018,
her short story “Maiden Light” was included in the suspense fiction anthology Unloaded Two:
More Crime Writers Writing Without Guns. Her essay “The Country I Came From” was a
“notable submission” in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 and won The Wag’s
Review Nonfiction Prize in 2009. Her essay “Pilgrim” was “noted for distinction” in The Best
American Essays 2010 and won the Mary C. Mohr Nonfiction Award in 2008. And in spring of
2020, she won the First Place Award in Editorial Writing from the Society of Professional
Journalists’ state contest for her piece, “Big Mess on Campus.”

Lili will be affectionately remembered by the DePauw community as a sharp-witted,
hardworking, even-tempered, and optimistic member of the faculty. And English Department
colleagues will be forever grateful for her enlivening combination of kindness and no-nonsense
rationality, as well as her boundless generosity as a hostess, opening her home to us year after
year—including for our annual Holiday party—where food and drink flowed, conversation was
riveting, and professors (and Greencastle friends) danced into the night. The future will be
bright for Lili Wright. She’s currently revising a draft of a new novel set in Italy, and her children,
Madeline and Lincoln, are thriving in their academic pursuits and beyond. In coming years, we
are likely to find Lili with her husband Peter, summering in their house in Maine, cooking
lobster and lemon torte for a few lucky friends, with her newest manuscript-in-progress
waiting, not entirely patiently, on her desk.

-Tribute by Samuel Autman