The Libraries’ Speaker Series recently featured acclaimed writer and UCI professor Ron Carlson in a program about the creative writing process. Praised as “a master of the short story,” he is the award-winning author of four short story collections and three novels, including Five Skies.
Carlson also wrote the recently released Ron Carlson Writes a Story, the focus of his talk. He spoke animatedly about the process that he goes through to create a story; he likes to invite the reader to “watch over his shoulder” as he composes. And he often doesn’t know how the story will end until he gets there. “I start with what I know and then write toward what I don’t,” he said. “As soon as I can’t touch bottom anymore, as soon as I’m off the foundations of what I was thinking, that’s when the story happens.”
Carlson described a writer as “a person who pays attention to his or her life and wants to know about it. And that doesn’t mean exactly what happened, but maybe what the truth is underneath what happened.”
He came to UCI in fall of 2006 as director of the acclaimed MFA program in fiction in the English Department—a program that has nurtured writers such as Pulitzer Prize-winners Michael Chabon and Richard Ford, as well as Alice Sebold, the best-selling author of The Lovely Bones. Carlson has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, the Cohen Prize at Ploughshares, and a National Society of Arts and Letters Literature Award.
“Most of my stories are drawn from my own experiences, things I’ve confronted. I think the mandate is that you have to write about something that matters to you. And that’s all. It’s legitimate to write about a disease, loss, death, all these things that happen, but it has to matter to you.”
In addition to his busy writing schedule, Carlson teaches writing workshops for MFA students, finding the call to teach as strong as the call to write. “Teaching is an active investigation, as capturing as the investigation of writing a story.” Following the program, guests had the opportunity to purchase signed copies of Carlson’s books and talk with him one on one.
For more information about the Libraries’ Speaker Series, please contact Julie Sully (email@example.com or x44658).
Library Speaker Series Features Ron Carlson
Jackie Dooley, Collette Ford, Pam La Zarr, Stephen MacLeod, Julie Sully, Daniel Tsang
Editor: Jackie Dooley
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