Tag Archives: author

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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Death of an author

I was sad to read this morning in Shelf Awareness that author Donald Harington has died.

Donald Harington died last Saturday at the age of 73 after a long illness in Fayetteville, Arkansas. All but one of his novels took place in the fictional Ozark town of Stay More. Born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Harington taught for many years at the University of Arkansas. His titles are available from Toby Press.

choiring of the treesI read one of his books, for the book club held at my local library, while I lived in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. That book: The Choiring of the Trees.

While I didn’t love the book, I did love its connection to that place, the Ozarks, Northwest Arkansas. When I first read it, it was actually quite disturbing, but the book has definitely stayed with me, and not in a bad way.

The local newspaper’s news article about Harington’s death. And the Harington obituary, from that same paper (he’s the second one down).

Literary Road Trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska, home of Willa Cather

literary road tripLast weekend I wanted to get out of town. And I knew I wanted to, sometime this fall, make the trip to visit the town known for being the home of Willa Cather, perhaps Nebraska’s most famous author. Many of Cather’s books are set in Red Cloud.

The small town (population 1,100) of Red Cloud, Nebraska wasn’t too far — 1.5 hours one way — so we jumped in the car, found sustenance for the journey, and headed south.

To my shame, I haven’t yet read any of Cather’s works (at least that I remember), but that didn’t stop me. Death Comes for the Archbishop has been sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting to be read, for well over a year now.

Brief overview
Before leaving home I’d printed information for a self-guided walking tour of the town’s Cather sites (I printed this from the chock-full, amazing, loaded, over-the-top informative Cather Foundation website).

Main street :: Red Cloud, Nebraska

Main street :: Red Cloud, Nebraska

We drove into town and stopped at the Red Cloud Opera House, which houses the Cather Foundation offices, along with its bookstore and an art gallery. I was tempted by some books and memorabilia, but I resisted.

Buildings
We walked up and down main street (aka Webster) looking at the buildings listed in the walking tour guide. We saw Dr. Cook’s Drug Store, the State Bank Building, and more, but the building that really stood out was Farmers’ and Merchants’ Bank:

From the walking tour info: "This building was erected in 1889 by Silas Garber, fourth governor of Nebraska and prototype of Captain Forrester in A Lost Lady. Restored by the Cather Foundation, the bank displays the original Colorado Sandstone frontage, along with native Red Cloud brick."

Once we realized that we’d explored all the listed buildings on Webster but had a long ways to go to complete the tour, we jumped in the car to explore the rest of town.

Among the sites we saw were: her childhood home,

The Cather family lived in this home from 1884 to 1904.

The Cather family lived in this home from 1884 to 1904.

the Harling House

This is the house described in My Antonia, where Antonia worked.

This is the house described in My Antonia, where Antonia worked.

and a Baptist church.

This is the church of Cather's youth. She was raised Baptist but later joined the Episcopalian church.

This is the church of Cather's youth. She was raised Baptist but later joined the Episcopalian church.

Prairie
Once we were done looking at buildings, we drove south of town (within sight of the Kansas border) to the Willa Cather Memorial Prairie.

The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie consists of 608 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie. The foundation is returning this land to its pre-1900 conditions.

The Willa Cather Memorial Prairie consists of 608 acres of never-been-plowed native prairie. The foundation is returning this land to its pre-1900 conditions.

A closer view of some of those grasses:

The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie.

The area is classified as loess, mixed-grass prairie.

So that’s it! Hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of Red Cloud, Nebraska.

Have you taken any literary road trips lately?