Brockmeier discusses writing, gives public reading

Liz Tubman

Award-winning author Kevin Brockmeier visited campus Thurs., April 12, addressing the creative writing process for students, faculty and the greater community. Brockmeier’s visit included a Q-and-A session in the afternoon and a reading that night in the Wriston auditorium.
Brockmeier is the author of two novels, “The Truth About Celia” and bestseller “A Brief History of the Dead.” He is also author of a short story collection, “Things That Fall from the Sky” and two young adult novels, “City of Names” and “Grooves: A Kind of Mystery.”
According to his publisher’s website, Brockmeier’s stories have been printed in The New Yorker and The Georgia Review. The author has received numerous awards, including the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award, the Italo Calvino Short Fiction Award and three O. Henry Awards.
To add to the list, Brockmeier had just received the prestigious Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship the week before his visit to Lawrence.
Brockmeier’s visit was organized by Assistant Professor of English David McGlynn for his creative writing class.
“Brockmeier’s stories and novels occupy the space between literary fiction and science fiction and fantasy,” McGlynn explained. “Since many Lawrence students also love science fiction and fantasy, I thought that a writer like [him] would appeal to a wide range of reading tastes.”
In the Q-and-A session, students asked questions about Brockmeier’s writing process and style firsthand. He described his writing process as very slow – on a good day he said that he adds a single page to whatever project he is currently working on.
Emily Alinder, a student in McGlynn’s creative writing class, said that she enjoyed hearing about the author’s slow and careful writing process. “He made me feel more secure with my own desire to write a near-perfect first draft,” she stated.
When asked about the impact of Brockmeier’s visit to her class, Alinder’s classmate Liz Benton commented, “I think most people get a little nervous about a published author coming to campus and having the opportunity to talk with him. The coolest thing about an author coming [here] is the discovery that he is a human being too, and that if you recognize this and listen to him with an open mind, it’s easy to learn a little something about writing, reading or maybe life in general.”
“[Brockmeier]’s convinced he shouldn’t advise anyone to write the way he does, sentence by meticulous sentence,” Benton continued, “but I couldn’t help wondering if the only way to create a beautiful line like ‘the candle flame shifts from side to side like a flower petal spun between two fingers’ is by putting every creative particle in your brain into one sentence at a time.”
“[He] may not have the answer for the best way to write a story, but he definitely gave my class some insight about his writing, how he became a writer, and how he continues to struggle as one today,” Benton explained.
Brockmeier’s evening reading attracted an audience of about 40 students, faculty and community members. His first reading came from a chapter titled “The City” from “A Brief History of the Dead.” Following was the second chapter from “Grooves: A Kind of Mystery.