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Best-selling author Colum McCann speaks with Muse Scholars, other honors students

Best-selling author and Hunter College professor Colum McCann spoke recently with the Muse Scholars and other Hunter honors students about the writing life and the inspiration behind Let the Great World Spin, his National Book Award-winning novel about human connectivity, art and 1974's famous tight-rope walk between the World Trade Center towers.

McCann described his early years as a writer in Ireland, where he wrote a column for a local newspaper. But he gave up that cushy post during his early 20s in search of adventure, McCann explained. He moved to the United States, where he took a bicycle tour of the country and learned about the different kinds of people who inhabit the states. McCann also lived in Japan. He urged students to spend time exploring the world before settling down into a career.

Traveling and other kinds of exploration have proved integral to McCann's work as a writer. In This Side of Brightness, for example, McCann spent a period living with the homeless inside of New York's underground tunnel system. For Dancer, he visited Russia.

McCann is the author of five novels and two collections of stories. He has received many international honours, including the National Book Award, the International Dublin Impac Prize, a Chevalier des Arts et Lettres from the French government, election to the Irish arts academy, several European awards, the 2010 Best Foreign Novel Award in China, and an Oscar nomination. His work has been published in over 30 languages.