Creative Writers Reading Series Welcomes Brian Doyle

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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 at 2:20 PM
Creative Writers Reading Series Welcomes Brian Doyle by Alexandria Morris

The literary nonfiction writer Brian Doyle will be reading at Penn State Behrend on Thursday, April 24, wrapping up this year’s Creative Writers Reading Series.

The award-winning author and essayist has written 13 books, including the recently published novelThe Plover. His other books include The Wet Engine: Exploring the Mad Wild Miracle of the Heart, Saints Passionate & Peculiar, Credo, and Spirited Men: Story, Soul, and Substance. He has been published in The Best American Essays multiple times including this year’s edition. Brian Doyle has received from the American Academy of Arts and Letters the Award in Literature.

Alexandria Morris: What do you do when you are not writing?

Brian Doyle: Bark at and lecture my children; beg the dog not to throw up on the porch after catching and eating moles; gaze raptly at my lovely bride, who is more mysterious and alluring after 27 years than she was when she was in her dewy twenties; read maniacally; sneak in as many pro-basketball games as possible, as basketball is the greatest of all games and the pros are the best ever, I mean, you cannot live in Ohio and not be totally knocked out by Kyrie Irving dribbling through five defenders with the greatest of ease; take notes on ideas that flood toward me from people’s remarks and newspapers and music and the electric universe; dip into the meager wine rack judiciously; attend Mass; snarl at the arrogance and greed of politicians; edit the University of Portland’s ‘alumni’ magazine; and savor the oddity of my friends. Also brief naps on Sundays.

AM: Do you ever experience writer’s block? What advice can you give to fellow writers to get through it?

BD: I try not to let blockage get a handhold. I generally have several projects going at once, and if one flags I turn to another. I try to write an hour a day and find that steady work keeps puzzlement at bay; I suppose my advice to my fellow scribblers would be to do it every day; don’t let it be something special you do occasionally; it’s natural and normal and story sharing is who we are; and don’t think while writing, just write like hell and look up afterwards (you can always cut or bag it later); let the piece run where it wants, don’t control it, don’t be so strictly in charge. If you feel blocked with one project, start something else. Just keep writing.

AM: What projects are you working on now?

BD: In the last few years I am having a ball writing novels – Mink River (set on the Oregon coast) was published in 2010, The Plover (a sea novel) will come out just before I am your guest, and I will have a novel called Martin Marten (about, no kidding, a pine marten) published next year. I am finishing a novel about Chicago, sort of. I also write essays happily all the time (I am first and foremost an essayist, the greatest of all forms), and ‘proems’ here and there, and lately I have cheerfully been writing very strange headlong prayers for some reason. It’s all a puzzle. Also I just wrote a brief play which will be performed one night by students here and then probably never again, which I find entertaining.

AM: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Brian Doyle: Write. Sit your ass in the chair and do it. No guru, no teacher. Teach yourself to write by writing every day. Journal, diary, blog, letters, whatever. Just do it. Learn what to leave out. Don’t think while writing, a cardinal sin. Just tell a story. Let characters who are real tell their stories. Be a conduit, a prism, a channeler. Have fun. Pay close attention to everyone other than you, because they are fascinating, and you can often be the means by which their stories emerge blinking into the world. Train yourself to ask questions and listen carefully and people will tell you amazing things. Writing’s not hard and it’s not work. It’s fun and natural and the way we live. We catch and tell and share stories all day long – that’s what love and politics and religions and nations are, story collections. Also when you are done with a piece, send it off to be published. It’s not done unless someone reads it. If no one reads your work it’s only catharsis, which is necessary and nutritious…but limited.


The reading will be held at 6:00 pm in Penn State Behrend’s Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel.  A reception will be held at 5:30 pm for the author. This event is free and open to the public.

Erie Reader: Vol. 7, No. 21
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