Students and staff had the pleasure of attending a book-reading at Main Hall this past Tuesday with special guest, author and professor of English and Environmental Journalism at Beloit College, Christopher Fink. Fink has been the editor-in-chief of the Beloit Fiction Journal since 2005.
He currently has two published works of fiction, “Farmer’s Almanac” published in 2012 and “Add This to the List of Things That You Are” in 2019. He has published dozens of essays and short stories since 2000 and earned his Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
In attendance at the reading were several members of the English faculty, the entire roster of this term’s Advanced Creative Writing students, who Fink was generous enough to visit and participate in discussion with in-class, and a few other curious individuals.
The event kicked off with an introduction from Lawrence’s own professor of English and Creative Writing — also an acclaimed author of several published works — David McGlynn. McGlynn’s words were brief, but eloquent.
Giving personal anecdote about his time as a professor, author and resident of Wisconsin, McGlynn soon welcomed Fink to the stage with a healthy round of applause.
Fink shared aloud a compelling character piece entitled “Three Ps”, a short story taken from his recently published collection, “Add This to the List of Things That You Are.” Intimate, engaging and phenomenally vivid, “Three Ps” follows a photographer whose self-reflections of a less-than-satisfactory, decade-long career push him to pursue answers to profoundly personal questions.
Albeit brief, Fink delivers his character’s voice with elegance, leaving the reader in a state of contemplation and satisfaction found only in stories which ask provocative questions and give unexpected, though oddly fitting, answers.
Fink took questions from both Professor McGlynn’s Advanced Creative Writing class before he took the stage and from the audience after the reading. When explaining the inspiration behind his collection of stories, Fink confessed to being “fascinated with failure” and deeply invested in character studies.
Indeed, failure and the struggle of accomplishment are among the many unifying themes connecting his otherwise independent, geographically and spiritually distinct stories. Fink explained each setting within his collection was one he had personally been to and had drawn inspiration from — for instance, “Three Ps” is set in Stresa, a resort town on the coast of Italy’s Lake Maggiore, a setting visited by Fink, who found its mood perfect for the setting of a conflicted photographer.
Fink’s primary focus, however, is character. He discussed his fascination with unique individuals of every kind, and how the characters on which his stories focus on are drawn from both external and internal inspiration. “Every story is an autobiography, in a way,” Fink explained, “But, at the same time, every word on the page is made up.” His mixture of inspiration resonates well with the characters found within the pages of his collection, as was shown in his reading.
Fink lingered afterward to answer individual questions, promote his new publication and to sign copies of his collection for those who had already bought and brought them.