Walt Wangerin teaches: Hutchmoot keynote

Cameraphone: Walt Wangerin speaks at Hutchmoot.

One of the highlights of Hutchmoot for me was author Walt Wangerin‘s (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable, and rhyming with wanderin’) talk.

Although most of the information was not new (as he kept saying), Wangerin touched on several topics I’d been thinking about recently (including this one). Afterward, he signed a few books, including the two I’d brought. 😀

The talk

Wangerin defined art as composed experience. It puts details into a kind of order, that is then experienced by someone else. Art seeks an audience (a reader, in the case of writing). One creates with the ghost of the audience in the room.

This experience is intense. It’s an experience with a beginning, middle and end. It creates its own time and space (other pieces are squished together to give the new work room); it “becomes the cosmos for a time,” Wangerin said.

The artist, the storyteller (the minstrel) makes sense (decisions) of the chaos — but that order doesn’t have to be mathematical. (“A piler into piles and a heaper into heaps” is the Sanskrit definition of a poet, Wangerin said.)

Wangerin listed 5 covenants, or relationships, he’s made in respect to creating:

  1. A covenant with perceived reality.
    This is the standing apart, separation (shyness?) — the third eye — observation and creating requires.
  2. A covenant with my craft, with peers in that craft.
    1. Know what came before.
    2. Know the craft, the righteousness of the language, if only to play against it.
    3. Establish good relationships with artists of today.
  3. A covenant with the community within which I’m writing.
    This is the boundaries we choose not to cross to protect our families, our friends. Don’t misuse them.
  4. I must not lie.
    (Fiction is fine.)

    There are 2 languages of creation:

    1. God spoke into being, out of nothing
    2. The one we have, which is naming (Genesis 2).
    3. Names are not merely handles but:

      1. The thing named is brought into place so it can be known.
      2. A name establishes an item/person’s relation with other name things.
      3. The naming action beings to declare the thing’s purpose.

      This naming is powerful, but also dangerous.
      Art must be a kind of piety. (I wish I remembered more of what he was saying here.)

  5. A covenant with the axioms inside me, by which I make sense of life and the world.
    What I write (and/or create) must be consistent with my worldview.

The signing

It was my first author signing since I’ve been a book blogger, and as signings go it was pretty low-key (I think).

I had him sign two of my books, both The Book of the Dun Cow and Saint Julian.

In all, Wangerin’s visit was one of the biggest highlights of Hutchmoot.


About the author
Walter Wangerin Jr. is the author of 30-plus books, including The Book of the Dun Cow (his first novel) and Saint Julian (one of his most recent). He teaches literature and creative writing, and is writer-in-residence, at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.

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4 responses to “Walt Wangerin teaches: Hutchmoot keynote

  1. Pingback: Hutchmoot Hub (A Collection Of All ‘moot-related Blogposts, Websites, Etc.) | S.D. Smith

  2. Wow. You take much better notes than me, mine are all over the place and I’m sure I missed some of this info. Thanks for putting it out there for us. He was truly inspiring, and such a privilege to meet.

  3. I wish I had been aware of this conference—I visited the site and all of it was warm and inviting . . . reminded me of a fire in a fireplace. Wish I could have pulled up a comfy chair and spent time with others drawn to such a place.

    I’m curious about the phrase in 2b, the “righteousness of language.” I like it, although I’m not really sure what that means.

  4. Hannah I am breathing in this post and what an experience! I like the signed books because they remind me of the event and the author. I try to put a picture of the event/author in the books so i can have the full memory of when I received the book.

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