Eugene Cross comes to Erie

Monday, November 5th, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Eugene Cross comes to Erie by Samantha Myers
psbehrend.psu.edu

Fiction writer Eugene Cross will be reading from his first collection of short stories, Fires of Our Choosing, at Penn State Behrend on Thursday, Nov. 8. Cross, born and raised in Erie, is the winner of the 2009 Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service, and his stories have appeared in American Short Fiction, Shorty Quarterly, TriQuarterly, Callaloo, and Narrative Magazine.

SM: How long have you been writing? What got you started in writing?

EC: I've been writing just as long as I can remember, but I'm sure I didn't take it too seriously until I got to college. One of the things that really turned me on to the whole endeavor and the art itself was an Introduction to Creative Writing class I took as a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh. Suddenly I was reading Ray Carver and Lewis Buddy Nordan and Yusef Komunyakaa, prose writers and poets who opened me up to a whole new world of the written word. I remember being dumbstruck and just thinking that I'd finally figured out what I might want to do with my life.

SM: What is the driving force, or inspiration, for your writing?

EC: I'd say that part of it is the need to create. Most artists will tell you that they enjoy the act of creating something, even if it doesn't always turn out the way they hoped. And I think that's part of it as well. Always aspiring to do better, to tell better stories, and reach your audience on a more meaningful level. There's a great saying that goes something like, "A writer's life is the search for the perfect word." And that sounds about right to me. You're always trying to improve, come up with a better turn of phrase, a superior line, exceed your limitations. If you stop pursuing that, something has gone terribly wrong.

SM: This is your first published book, how does that feel?

EC: It's been a really nice experience. I won't lie and say it wasn't something I'd dreamt of for a long time. The support I got from friends, family, and the community was beyond humbling. It's a bit surreal at first, but then you're right back at the keyboard, trying to move an imaginary character from one side of an imaginary room to the other, facing all those same problems you've encountered before, and once again, there it is. Reality. 

SM: So far, you’ve only written fiction. Ever considered other genres?

EC: I've published some nonfiction and really like the genre. I admire poetry a great deal, but am aware that being a fan doesn't ensure competency. It's well beyond my abilities, which makes it all the more enjoyable. 

SM: Do you have any advice for new writers?

EC: There's a lot of great advice out there, but I'd say different bits of wisdom meant more to me at certain times than others. When I was just starting out, one of the things that really helped me was to understand the importance of reading, and reading closely, of really immersing yourself in the writers who've come before you. If you love literature and stories and poetry you'll naturally be drawn to reading lots of it, and for any aspiring writer that's a very good place to begin.

The reading, part of the Creative Writers Reading Series, will be held in Behrend’s Larry and Kathryn Smith Chapel at 6 p.m. A reception for the author will be held at 5:30 p.m. The reading is free and open to the public.

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