Saturday, November 14, 2009

Evening with Kent Haruf

Tonight was the One Book One Broomfield event with author Kent Haruf. It was really interesting--he talked about his life and career, read a chapter from Eventide (I beileve he said it was Chapter 37--about Raymond going to the Firemen's ball and meeting Rose), and answered questions.

A few notes:

1. He grew up in a small town in northeastern Colorado. His dad was a storyteller and both of his parents were readers, so he grew up believing storytelling and reading were what adults did. And he thinks that's what all kids should grow up thinking.

2. The McPherons were the first characters he had written about that he felt he wanted to write more about. They're not based on specific people he knew (although he does remember two rancher brothers who came to his dad's church when he was a kid), but he tried to give them the most noble characteristics of the ranchers he has known. And he gave them the last name of a beloved aunt and uncle. It sounds like they are very important characters to him.

3. He sees Eventide as a story of loss and how people deal with loss, so it is darker than Plainsong but he sees loss as a universal experience and tried to write the characters so that the reader would empathize with their losses. While the events take place in a small town--which allows him to convey situations in a starker manner--he reminded us that similar stories are also happening in our town.

4. He doesn't use quotation marks because (1) he likes the way the page looks without them (less cluttered) and (2) he thinks not using them causes the reader to slow down because he/she has to think about whether it's exposition or dialogue that they're reading...and slowing down is a good thing. However, when he teaches writing or English, he requires students to use proper conventions until he is sure they have mastered those conventions; then he allows them to experiment.

5. He thinks about a book for a year before he starts writing and, by the end of the year, he knows what will happen to all the characters. Yet it still may take him years to write the book. He sometimes writes the first draft of a scene (on a manual typewriter) with his eyes closed or even with a stocking cap pulled over his eyes to keep him from fixating on writing the perfect sentence, choosing the right word, getting the punctuation right, etc. Then once he has the scene in a formt hat he thinks has the right overall shape, he may refine it for several weeks.

6. He's a morning person, so he usually starts working around 8:30 a.m. First he writes in a journal about his everyday life. Then he reads for 30 to 60 minutes--Faulkner, Cormac McCarthy, Steinbeck--something he's read many times before. It's to get his mind away from his day-to-day life. He reviews what he's been working on and then tries to write new stuff. By noon, he's tired!

7. If he doesn't read some fiction in a day, it's not a good day.

I'm sure others would have other notes, but those are the things that are boucning around in my mind.

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