If you’re a creative person, you know that sometimes you may feel a little stuck, uninspired, or you may feel your passion waning a bit. It happens to all of us whether that passion is writing, painting, design, photography, etc… Sometimes, all it takes is sharing a few hours with like minded people to get those creative juices flowing again. Whether you’re an avid reader, or enjoy creative writing, these events are fun and thought provoking. Plus it’s interesting to meet the person behind the book.
This past week, May and June attended two author events in the Chicago area. All were authors from Chicago. Saturday evening we spent a few hours with Elizabeth Crane at the beautiful Hemingway Museum in Oak Park. The event was sponsored as part of a series created by the author Elizabeth Berg, called Writing Matters.
The Hemingway Museum
Elizabeth Crane is the author of three collections of short stories- When the Messenger is Hot, All this Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter. She also has two novels, We Only Know So Much and The History of Great Things. She discussed her writing style as well as how her mother has always been a huge inspiration for her writing. Her mother was an opera singer and they had a complicated relationship, which as a result has given her a lot to write about. Betsy Crane writes an interesting genre called autobiographical fiction. So it seems to walk the border somewhere between memoir and fiction.
We also attended an event on Tuesday evening at a nearby public library, with authors Brigid Pasulka, author of A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True, and Rebecca Makkah, who wrote The Hundred Year House. They both spoke about their writing process, what inspired their stories, and answered questions from the audience.
Both of these authors’ books have elements of historical fiction in them. Neither May nor June have read them, but they are now on our short list of books to read, and we look forward to sharing them with you.
One thing that was interesting about all three of these authors is that none of them have MFA degrees in creative writing. Instead, all three really just became writers by doing something they love, writing.
Also, when all three writers talked about their books, none of them set out to write a novel. Betsy Crane said that she is really a short story writer and for both her novels, she started a short story and then kept going. Rebecca Makkai’s novel also started out as a short story which didn’t work, so she decided it needed to be a novel. Unfortunately, that novel fell flat, however her interest in the history of the house became the subject matter for the novel that grew into The Hundred Year House. Similarly, Brigid Pasulka wrote a lot of stories about Poland that she put in a drawer. Then, while on vacation in Poland, the rest of the story came together. The part she had previously written and her more recent words intertwined, resulting in her novel.
All of the writers are currently working on other projects, but they also have day jobs as writing teachers. One thing that was startling was how long the timeline was for publishing. For a few of the writers, the actual writing of the novel took seven or eight years, and then after the story was sold, two more years to publish.
As book lovers (and for at least one of us (June) an aspiring novelist), we always find it so interesting to learn about the writer’s creative process. These were very interesting events and inspired us to come home and be creative. —May and June