Thursday, May 28, 2009

2008-9 Year in Review, Part 3 (Spring Speakers)

(submitted by English major Logan Allen): In March, John Gallaher, author of three books of poetry, professor of creative writing at Northwest Missouri State and editor of The Laurel Review, gave a talk on his experiences as a poet and editor and a reading of his own work.

In April, Bret Lott, author of the novel Jewel, came to speak at a convocation event. Lott read some of his work-in-progress, a section of an introduction he is writing for a new edition of To Kill a Mockingbird. As a Christian writer who doesn’t write Christian novels, he was asked to write an essay that would also serve as an introduction arguing why Christians should read secular work. The real treat, though, came later that day, when Lott made a special appearance for the English Club. Attendees were able to ask anything about Lott or his opinion on writing.

Answering a series of questions, Lott admitted that he hadn’t always been a writer. He was never a proficient writer in high school, and upon entering college, never gave it a second thought. He had, however, always been an avid reader.

He excelled in college, but decided to drop out after his sophomore year. He didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life, and he didn’t think he was going to figure it out in a classroom. So he got a job delivering soda pop up and down the Pacific Coast Highway along the Southern California coastline.

The job was great, he thought. The view from the driver’s seat was magnificent, he was young, it was the 1960s, and he had little to worry about. After a year of that he realized in a moment of panic, “I don’t want to sell soda pop for the rest of my life.”

He decided to ease back into school by taking a night class at a community college in the Los Angeles area. As fate would have it, the only available class was a creative writing class. On one occasion, the teacher read one of his sentences to the class and said, “That’s a writer’s sentence.” In that moment, he knew he wanted to be a writer. And now he is the author of eight novels, three short story collections, and a memoir.

When asked about his writing process, he laughed and said, “Do you really want to know?” Before he begins writing, he strives to recreate a writing environment that he feels was the scene in which he composed his best work in the past. “It’s not superstition,” he assured the group.

Lott prefers to write in the morning, rising at 5:30 AM to don his writing uniform—loose sweats and wool socks. He pours his coffee into a mug that he always uses while writing, and presses the play button on his stereo, spinning a CD that, to him, carries the mood or feeling of whatever he is working on. “I don’t care if it takes me a year to write the book, I’ll listen to the same CD every morning,” he said. His desk is strewn with notes, memorabilia, photographs, and anything else that might inspire his writing.

He closed the session encouraging the group to think back on a time when the writing was excellent and try to recreate it and see what happens. He said he had a great time at Belmont, and Belmont certainly enjoyed having him.