Creative Writing fanatics overcrowd Honors College for favorite author
With notebooks and pens in hand, students, teachers and aspiring authors listened intently to hear how to improve their own creative writing at Monday’s lecture in the Honors College Commons.
InPrint Houston, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring readers and writers, presented author and Syracuse University professor George Saunders in an Honors College craft talk to discuss the basics of creative writing.
“The container of all my knowledge is really just sand in a jar,” Saunders said. “And today, I present my jar of sand to you.”
The craft talk was part of a reading series, now in its 33rd season, held by InPrint for the promotion of reading and writing in the Houston community. Following the lecture in the Honors Commons was a sold-out reading of Saunders’ work at the Alley Theater in the downtown area.
“These series are mainly for the benefit of creative writing students, but we open them up to the public in order to inspire the community to read and write,” said InPrint Executive Director Rich Levy.
According to Saunders, creative writing is a process that actually involves more editing than anything else. For his own work, the process begins as reading yesterday’s work with a clean mind and gauging the initial response.
“Our best tool is that momentary reaction of our own prose,” Saunders said.
The next step is to observe the tiny adjustments that present themselves in the day’s “honest reading.” The trick is to cut down the work into its bare bones, and then slowly let it grow organically.
“There’s a certain aspect of mystery to this method,” Saunders said. “You could potentially be a great writer without any professional tools, so to speak.”
This process includes editing hundreds of drafts, line-by-line, until plot elements begin to develop. The goal is: If the original work were stored in a clay pot, it would crack the pot open from growing bigger than the author could have imagined.
“The embodiment of craft,” Saunders said, “is the intersection of a writer’s joy and the reader’s joy in appreciating the writer’s joy.”
Professor Aaron Reynolds of the UH Creative Writing Program and his students attended the lecture for a chance to hear and meet an author they’re studying in the course.
“Undergraduates love George Saunders,” Reynolds said. “He’s by far their favorite writer that I assign.”
Others among the audience of the overcrowded lecture were university students, classes from YES Prep and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, professors and interested members of the writing community. The event was also filmed for future posting on the InPrint website in the archives of all craft talks the organization has hosted.
On the process of creating quality works of writing, Saunders said, “To put it simply, it’s never over until it’s over.”