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Moments

Too many writers take pretension to their work. When you write, take honesty to your work. If you cry at a Harry Potter movie and don’t want to admit that, okay; but don’t forget to explore why you cried. —Kwame Dawes, poet, writer, 2009 Emmy winner for “Live, Hope, Love: Living and Loving with AIDS in Jamaica,” speaking to the Wabash community in February. Another Dawes keeper: “A good poem is like a good pickup line.” Quentin Dodd ’94 Kwame Dawes

The Value of Visiting Writers

For Readers of All Ages W A B A S H I T N E T W O R K A D M I N I S T R AT O R QUENTIN DODD ’94 READ FROM HIS TH I R D C H I L D R E N ’ S B O O K , TOM MY FRASIER AND THE PLANET OF THE SLUGS, TO LISTEN ERS OF ALL AGES I N R O G G E L O U N G E I N M AY.

“’Terror—that’s the word I’d used to describe how it feels to hand my work over to an accomplished professional writer for critique,” says Ian Grant ’13. And Dan Simmons ’70, bestselling author of The Terror, among Ian Grant ’13 29 other novels and story collections, was the writer critiquing him. Simmons took a break from his latest project, The Abominable, to return to campus for a reading and to work with students. First up in Professor Eric Freeze’s class on writing the novel was Grant’s nascent manuscript. “My panic comes from knowing that a person I’ve never met, whose work I’ve admired, is going to mercilessly eviscerate my creation,” says Grant, who was this year’s Robert Edwards Writing Award winner. “My biggest fear was that Simmons would have nothing good to say about the piece.” Grant was pleasantly surprised. An award-winning teacher before becoming an award-winning writer, Simmons offered many suggestions to the piece, but as he told Grant during class, “The more marks I make on a manuscript, the more I mean for it to succeed.” “That he took the time to workshop my piece straight and honest

was enough for me,” Grant says. “And at the end of the manuscript, he left a single note: ‘Ian—You write well for your age. I wish I could continue to work with you as your work grows stronger and more original. Which it will.’ This is the greatest encouragement I have received as a writer.” “One of the things I’m most conscious of as one of the only professors teaching creative writing on campus is that I’m teaching students, whether I’m trying to or not, to write like me,” Freeze says. “Having other authors—sometimes extremely well-known authors —commenting on students’ work can help them see different approaches that will help them in generation and revision. Freeze, whose short story collection Dominant Traits was published in March, recalls another such moment. “During lunch with Dan Chaon, one student asked about the opening scene of his bestselling novel, Await Your Reply. The student wanted to know when in the creative process the writer had come up with this memorable scene. Chaon’s answer helped students see that the novel didn’t have to be something that was entirely outlined and organized, an inert plot with just words to fill in. Instead, it was a process like holding a hammer in your hand and taking aim at a stake, trusting that the blow would drive it true.”

Eric Freeze and Dan Simmons ’70

Former rock musician turned writer Nic Brown goes to the board to help a student in Freeze’s class work through the structure of his story. Dan Chaon

photos by Steve Charles

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Wabash Magazine  

The Journal of Wabash College

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