Friday, March 9, 2012
For twenty-four years now, Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute has hosted our Writers Symposium, now named to honor Laurette LePrevost. The list of writers who have appeared here is impressive--Maya Angelou, Ernest Gaines, Nikki Giovanni, to name a few. Some of our writers were featured before they "hit it big." We're excited to learn that Ron Rash's novel Serena, our campus reading selection two years ago, is about to become a major motion picture. We are not surprised.
This year, our visiting author is Kentucky writer Silas House. Our classes read his more recent novel Clay's Quilt during fall semester, the story of a young boy who's father, a Vietnam vet, is suffering from PTSD. This semester, most of the classes read his first novel Clay's Quilt, not only a story of a young man growing into adulthood and finding love, but a story of the effects violent crime on a family--for years.
House spoke at our Watauga campus yesterday and here on the Caldwell campus last night. His final appearance is set today at noon. He has, so far, charmed his audience with his easy-going, warm, and candid demeanor.
I'll admit that hearing an author does not always make me fonder. Without naming names, I must say that sometimes ego or attitude can wreak havoc on my respect for an author. I may still love the writing, but I can sometimes see that the writer has perhaps gotten away from the vein of honesty and creativity I loved on the page. After all, writers are human beings. I'll usually give someone a second chance; some have blown that one too.
I know that, like me, my students enjoy hearing something about how a book came into existence. We all need to be reminded that good writing is more a product of hard work and determination that pure talent or some kind of magic. For those of us who believe in the power of books, of words, it's always motivational to hear someone else's long, hard success story.
Before House's visit, I not only read the two books we taught this semester, but I began to dig through my personal library, discovering some of his shorter fiction and his memoir writing in my favorite periodicals (Oxford American magazine, unquestionably at the top of my reading list), Christmas in the South, Blue Moon Cafe, and Don't Quit Your Day Job, Sonny Brewer's collection of stories of writers' jobs before the quit to write full time.
I had heard Brewer at Nashville's Festival of the Book a couple of years ago with Brad Watson, Tom Franklin, and Rick Bragg. House's story tells of his job delivering the mail along a rural route, a time that allowed him to observe the people around him and time to think--writing thinking--eventually leading to the completion of Clay's Quilt.
Today as we're anticipating his final appearance at noon, we're already thinking about whom to invite for next year's silver anniversary of the symposium, which books to share with our English and reading students next year. The list is tantalizing.